Sunday, 1 June 2008

Russian sailors arrested near the city of Huelva

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Fifteen Russian sailors have been arrested in the southwest of Spain on suspicion of being involved in drug trafficking, a Spanish Civil Guard official said on Friday.
"The Russian sailors were arrested near the city of Huelva two weeks ago during a large-scale police operation, along with 29 individuals suspected of drug trafficking," the official said, adding that other foreign nationals had also been arrested. The Civil Guard said four tons of marijuana smuggled into Spain in two vessels had been seized during the operation. "The extent of the Russians' involvement in the case will be established during the investigation," he said.
Another police officer said the Russian sailors were believed to have been hired by drug dealers to unload the vessels, for which they could face long prison terms.
Russia's embassy in Madrid said crew members from the fishing ship Yuozas Aleksonis, which belongs to the Russian Arkhangelsk trawler fleet, were among those arrested.
A fleet official said earlier on Friday the crew could have been set up to discredit the company involved in a long-running litigation over the ownership of several trawlers, including the Yuozas Aleksonis, now anchored in Spain. "In any event we will seek our sailors' return home," said Nina Zelenina, chief spokesperson for the fleet based in northern Russia. The Arkhangelsk fleet dispatched 60 sailors to Spain after a Spanish court upheld in December 2007 Russia's suit against a Mauritanian national who appropriated the vessels after leasing them in 2004. The sailors were supposed to carry out maintenance work on the fishing vessels to prepare them to be towed to a neighboring country for repairs. But the Mauritanian appealed the ruling, and the trawlers ended up stuck in Spain pending further court hearings.

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