Harwich: Libyan cash worth �100 million seized from ship
A SHIPPING company which had �100million of Libyan currency seized by UK officials has confirmed the cash was destined for Colonel Gaddafi’s Central Bank of Libya.
The 122-metre Sloman Provider was bound for Tripoli with containers for the Central Bank of Libya when UK Border Agency officials requested it return to Harwich International Port.
The boat was accompanied into the Essex port where containers with the Libyan currency – subject to a UN sanction – were offloaded and placed under control of border authorities in a secure location.
The boat is owned by Sloman Neptun, a German-based company which specialises in transporting cargo to north Africa.
The company confirmed this afternoon they had been contacted by the UK authorities and told directly to bring the vessel back to Harwich.
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A spokesman said the company was warned if it had not volunteered to turn the boat around “force” would have been used.
But he denied any knowledge of what had been in the containers, saying that the company was told it was “printed matter.”
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He said: “The receiver was the Central Bank of Libya - they made the sales contract with a UK company for the ‘printed matter’.
“What you have heard about the money being onboard is true.
“How much money there was in those containers - I don’t know.
“We were not aware that there was money in the containers - we were told that it was printed matter.
“There are no plans to return to Libya until the situation changes.
“The vessel was never in Libyan waters - it docked and unloaded in Tunisia but did not get as far as Libya.
“We did not want to go into Libya because of the troubles there and had already made the decision to return before we were contacted.
“We did not want to bring the crew or the ship into any danger - we had good reason as the uprising had been going on for some time.”
The spokesman said the original containers with the currency had been collected and loaded onto the boat in Harwich.
He said: “We were contacted by the UK officials by e-mail and phone and they asked us to return the boat to Harwich.
“If we had not done so, they would have put more force on us.
“It was due to discharge the containers in Libya but since the uprising we decided to return as we did not want to bring the crew or the ship into danger.
“The call to turn around came quite soon after we had decided not to go into Libyan waters.
“The officials said they were interested in the cargo - they said ‘you will do us a great favour if you return it’.
According to official records, the boat docked in Harwich at 6.23pm on Wednesday.
The boat was then released to continue its journey before being requested to return to the port at 11am on Thursday
The 122-metre vessel docked in Bremen, German at 1.15pm on Friday.
A Government spokesman said: “A vessel which had been heading to Libya returned to the UK yesterday morning.
“The ship was escorted into the port of Harwich by the UK Border Agency cutter HMS Vigilant.
“A number of containers were offloaded from the boat and have been taken under control of UK Border Agency and have been moved to a secure location.
“The cargo is understood to contain a significant quantity of Libyan currency which is subject to a UN sanction.”