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Dual use materials allowed to leave with Thor Liberty

Customs officers and police have resumed questioning of the captain and first mate of the Manx-flagged Thor Liberty vessel. On Wednesday, the Finnish government granted a transit permit for the vessel and its cargo—even though explosives on board could be used to produce weapons of mass destruction.

M/S Thor Liberty -alus Kotkan satamassa.
M/S Thor Libertyn rakettikonteista löytyi sotilasräjähdettä. Image: YLE Kymenlaakso

The captain and first mate, however, are still under suspicion of illegal export of military equipment and are not yet allowed to leave Finland.

The ship was intercepted at Kotka harbour before Christmas, when 69 missiles and over 150 tons of explosives were discovered onboard without proper transit papers.

”These two people who are under suspicion at the moment are banned from travelling,” said Petri Lounatmaa of the Customs board’s criminal investigations board. ”Right now they cannot leave the country. We are still conducting our preliminary investigation. We have interviewed both of the suspects quite closely.”

Re-loading in progress

The Thor Liberty is being re-loaded at the port ahead of its departure. On Thursday morning paper production machinery had been loaded on to the vessel.

The ship, the missiles and the rest of its crew are free to leave Kotka. The question is whether a new captain and first mate will arrive to steward the vessel out of Finland, or whether the crew will take the vessel onwards.

The ship also carried 160 tonnes of explosives, which are not yet loaded onto the vessel as cargo. Lounatmaa is tight-lipped on the explosives’ origin and destination. The Finnish Ministry of Defence and Ministry for Foreign Affairs have treated the explosives as dual-use products, which could have a civilian or military purpose. They do not require an export permit and can continue on their journey.

”They could also have a military use, for instance in weapons of mass destruction,” says Lounatmaa.

The investigation into defence-related export crimes was not a foregone conclusion, even though permission was eventually granted. Lounatmaa saysthere is likely to be a connection to more countries.

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