Sunday, Aug 16 2009
Nuclear riddle of missing ship as pirates demand a £1m ransom
Pirates last night demanded a ransom of almost £1million for the release of the cargo ship which sparked an international search after vanishing from the
They said the armed gang had warned they would pose a ‘threat to the life and health’ to the 15 Russian crewmen on board unless their demands are met.
The ransom demand came as The Mail on Sunday established radiation tests were carried out at the
The Turkish-built vessel, which was carrying £900,000 worth of timber, is feared to have been stormed by pirates looking for a ‘secret cargo’.
The fact that nuclear tests were conducted will fuel speculation that the ship did have a hidden cargo.
Enquiries by this newspaper have established that no checks were carried out on what was being transported in the hold prior to its departure from
And the FSB, the Russian security service, as well as MI5 have been involved in the investigation into the hijacked vessel.
Last night Finnish Detective Chief Superintendent Jan Nyholm said: ‘Yes, it is true that there has been a demand for ransom in cash and that it was made to the company which owns the ship, Solchart Management in
Another police spokesman, Markku Ranta-Aho, said the ransom demand was for less than $1.5million (£900,000) – that it was ‘significant, but not huge’.
Finnish police also suggested the armed gang demanding the ransom were the same bandits who boarded the vessel off
The police released the information after a news blackout during which they had tried to trace the ship, but did not say when the ransom demand was made. They said the hijackers had not been in touch with them.
It is the first time in modern maritime history that a ship has disappeared without trace in European shipping waters.
Until now, ship hijackings have been confined to Somali pirates seizing vessels off the coasts of Africa and in the
Yesterday there were reports that the Arctic Sea’s automatic identification system – which helps locate its whereabouts – briefly emitted a signal from the Bay of Biscay, 300 miles east of La Rochelle on France’s east coast.
But 24 hours earlier, there was another report that the ship had been seen 520 miles off the Cape Verde islands off the western coast of Africa – more than 3,000 miles from its last known location.
Neither of the claims has been officially confirmed.
Ownership of the
Its owners – thought to be three Finnish-based Russian businessmen – only filed unaudited accounts earlier this month after initial news emerged of the vessel’s hijacking.
Last night, one of them expressed concern over the safe return of the £12 million ship and its crew.
Director Viktor Matveyev said: ‘I don’t sleep. I don’t eat. I have been working 24 hours a day. We hope that the crew is alive.’
Meanwhile, the British coastguard who was the last official to be in contact with the
A spokesman for the Marine and Coastguard Agency said that Sue King was unable to comment following a demand by the security services.
Rival gangs compete for the lucrative export of contraband cigarettes to
They attacked the crew and rummaged through the cargo before reportedly leaving 12 hours later.
Wives of the crewmen received identical text messages from their husbands after the ship was boarded saying: ‘We love you, miss you and we’re sticking to our course.’
This has raised suspicions that the messages were sent by the gangsters on board, because since then there has been no further contact from the crew.
On July 28, the ship passed through the English Channel and disappeared 50 miles south-west of Penzance in
It was due to deliver its cargo of 6,500 tons of timber on August 4 to the small Algerian
But last night, the
Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd
Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group
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