Russian court makes pirates pay for Arctic seizure

A court in North Russia has jailed the six hijackers of an Arctic Sea ship whose disappearance sparked an international hunt in 2009.

The prison terms for the six criminals range from 7 to 12 years. Three defendants are stateless people and three other defendants are citizens of Russia, Latvia and Estonia.

“The court has examined many materials, the case files consisted of 52 volumes and dozens of witnesses and injured parties testified,” the court’s press secretary told the Itar-Tass news agency.

In July 2009, the pirates seized the ship and its Russian crew off the coast of Sweden, demanding a ransom of €1.5 million. The ship itself was worth $4 million and the timber it was carrying at that moment about $3 million.

The ship popped up sporadically on radar screens for three weeks. Speculation was rife that it was carrying an illicit cargo of weapons destined for Iran.

When Russian warships recaptured it off the coast of Africa, only a listed cargo of timber was on board.

The ship was then taken to Malta and returned to its owners.

The Arctic Sea hijacking case was investigated in a close cooperation with the law enforcement agencies from several countries, including Finland, Sweden, Estonia and Latvia.

Russia’s Investigative Committee said this was an absolutely unique case for the Russian court system that has no precedents in the Russian legal practice.

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