Ship with Iranian arms seized at sea (JERUSALEM POST) By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT 04/15/12)
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BERLIN – A German vessel carrying Iranian weapons was stopped in the
Mediterranean while en route to Syria, Der Spiegel reported Saturday.
The report on Spiegel online’s website noted that Germany’s economic
ministry has initiated an investigation to determine if a violation
of sanctions took place against Syria’s regime in connection with the
German- owned Atlantic Cruiser vessel.
The ship, which had been chartered by a Ukrainian shipping company,
was delivering weapons to Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has been
coping with 11-month-long mass protests against his rule.
According to Spiegel, an economic ministry spokeswoman said, “The
facts of the case are familiar to us,” adding, “ We are pursuing
details and whether the embargo was violated.”
According to Spiegel, the charter company CEG Bulk Chartering,
responsible for the Atlantic Cruiser stopped the delivery of the
“We stopped the ship after we received information about the
weapons,” said ship broker Torsten Lüddeke from the CEG Bulk
The shipping company Bockstiegel owns the Atlantic Cruiser.
According to Bockstiegel’s website, the company is located in Emden
and Hamburg and has a fleet of 90 ships.
The ship was initially identified by Syrian defectors who alerted the
German company of the illegal cargo aboard, the report stated. The 27-
member EU has imposed a ban on the delivery of weapons to Syria.
According to the website of Bockstiegel, the Atlantic Courier is a
multipurpose vessel that flies under the flags of Antigua and Barbuda.
The Ukrainian firm White Whale Shipping rented the Atlantic Cruiser
and denies the allegations of weapons smuggling. Spiegel reported
that the head of Varamar – the Ukrainian company representing White
Whale – said Lüddeke from Bulk chartering is not telling the truth.
Varamar President Alexander Varvarenko said Lüddekes’ company has
received all of the documentation of merchandise aboard the vessel.
This is not the first time a German vessel has been used to smuggle
Iranian arms. In March 2011, the Israeli navy seized the Victoria
cargo ship as it was sailing off Israel’s coast on its way to Egypt
while flying a Liberian flag. The ship was carrying 50 tons of
weaponry destined for Hamas, including advanced Iranian-made radar-
guided anti-ship missiles.
Critics have long accused German authorities and companies of failing
to clamp down on German-Iranian trade, including the deliveries of
weapons and illicit nuclear technology for Iran’s regime. Germany
remains Iran’s largest EU bi-lateral trade partner, with a volume of
annual trade hovering around 4 billion euros.
The Iranian regime does not confine its weapons smuggling to German
vessels. In November 2009, Israel also intercepted the Francop ship,
which was sailing near Cyprus on its way to Syria. Flying an Antiguan
flag, the vessel was found to be carrying around 500 tons of
weaponry, including long-range Katyusha rockets.
In January, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said he was
working to recruit countries from around the world to help combat
what he called the “transatlantic smuggling” of weaponry from Iran to
its terror proxies in the region.
Meanwhile, a cell of Iranians and Azeris has been arrested on
suspicion of smuggling arms and military supplies from Iran into
Azerbaijan, the Azeri National Security Ministry announced on
“It was a group of seven people, citizens of Iran and Azerbaijan,”
Arif Babayev, the ministry spokesman, told Reuters.
Relations between Iran and neighboring mountainous Azerbaijan have
soured in recent months as Tehran accused it of assisting Israeli
intelligence in the murder of Iranian nuclear scientists.
The National Security Ministry said the group also smuggled in a
large quantity of narcotics from Iran into Azerbaijan.
In a separate incident, Baku arrested 22 Azeri citizens suspected of
spying for Iran and plotting to attack Western embassies and
companies in March.
Two months earlier, two men were arrested in Azerbaijan on suspicion
of plotting attacks on foreigners, including the Israeli ambassador
and a rabbi.
Authorities said the two suspects had been helped by an Iranian
linked to Iran’s intelligence services, who supplied them with guns
and explosives to smuggle from Iran.
Baku traditionally has had cordial ties with Tehran, but has grown
increasingly wary of the increasing influence of Iran’s influence in
the secular, but predominantly Muslim, former Soviet state.
Yaakov Katz, Reuters and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this
report. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 04/15/12)
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