Bul­garia in­ves­ti­gates ‘il­le­gal sale’ of Libyan tanker

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - REGION -

SOFIA: Prose­cu­tors in Bul­garia Fri­day opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the al­leged il­le­gal sale of a Libyan oil tanker, after Libya or­dered the seizure of Bul­gar­ian ships en­ter­ing its ports in re­tal­i­a­tion.

“The re­gional pros­e­cu­tion in Bur­gas opened a probe against a pri­vate debt col­lec­tion agent for … ex­ceed­ing his au­thor­ity in a case con­cern­ing the un­law­ful change of own­er­ship of a tanker,” the pros­e­cu­tion said in a state­ment.

The probe fol­lowed a protest by lawyers act­ing for the state-owned Libyan Gen­eral Na­tional Mar­itime Trans­port Com­pany, which owns the “Badr” ves­sel, the state­ment added.

The 61,000-ton crude oil tanker was orig­i­nally de­tained by Bul­gar­ian mar­itime au­thor­i­ties in the Black Sea port of Bur­gas in Novem­ber 2017 after a Bul­gar­ian com­pany claimed it as col­lat­eral for a $9.2 mil­lion Libyan state com­pany debt dat­ing back to 1989.

Libya says the claims are based on forged pa­pers.

The com­pany claim­ing the debt had asked for the tanker to be sold, but the sale was stopped by the re­gional court in Bur­gas.

Higher-level courts have also is­sued judg­ments or­der­ing the ves­sel’s re­lease.

How­ever, a pri­vate debt col­lec­tion agent dis­re­garded the courts and or­ga­nized a pub­lic sale of the tanker in March 2018, where it was ac­quired by the same com­pany that had sought it as com­pen­sa­tion.

The case sparked an an­gry re­ac­tion from Libya when in De­cem­ber the ship’s Libyan cap­tain and 20 other In­dian crew mem­bers were forced out by the new owner.

The tanker then left Bul­garia’s ter­ri­to­rial waters with a new crew, the name Bdin, and un­der a Pana­ma­nian flag.

Bul­garia’s Trans­port Min­is­ter Rosen Zhelyazkov has played down the case as “a pri­vate le­gal mat­ter,” but ear­lier this week Bul­gar­ian me­dia pub­lished an or­der from the Libyan Mar­itime Ad­min­is­tra­tion to seize all Bul­gar­ian ships en­ter­ing Libyan ports as a re­cip­ro­cal mea­sure for what it called “an act of piracy.” –

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