Colombia Detains Cuba-Bound Chinese Ship Carrying Weapons

Colombia Detains Cuba-bound Chinese Ship Carrying Weapons

Colombian officials say they have detained the captain of a China-flagged ship bound for Cuba for illegally carrying explosives and other arms.

The attorney general’s office said the ship was stopped over the weekend in the Caribbean port of Cartagena.
Officials said about 100 tons of gunpowder, almost three million detonators and some 3,000 cannon shells were found on board.

The ship’s records said it was carrying grain products.

“The documentation that the captain had in regards to the merchandise that was being transported did not correspond to what we found,” said Luiz Gonzalez, national director of the Colombian attorney general’s office.
He said the Chinese captain, Wu Hong, would be charged with weapons trafficking.

The ship was been impounded and searched for 48 hours before the order for the arrest of the captain was made.

Reuters, March 3, 2015

UPDATE 1-Colombia detains China-flagged ship for illegal arms transport

BOGOTA, March 3 (Reuters) – Colombian authorities detained a China-flagged ship traveling to Cuba for illegally transporting around 100 tonnes of gunpowder and other materials used to make explosives and arrested the captain, the attorney general’s office said.

The vessel was stopped on Saturday in the northern port of Cartagena, on the Caribbean coast, after the materials were detected during inspection. The cargo was listed in the ship’s records as grain products.

“Around 100 tonnes of powder, 2.6 million detonators, 99 projectiles and around 3,000 cannon shells were found,” Luis Gonzalez, the national director of the attorney general’s office, told reporters.

Cargo documentation the captain presented did not match the load the ship was found to be carrying, Gonzalez said. Photographs from the prosecutor’s office showed wooden cases inside a shipping container with labels stating Chinese defense manufacturer Norinco as the supplier.

The recipient was stated as importer Tecnoimport in the Cuban capital Havana. Neither company could be immediately reached for comment.

The ship’s captain, Wu Hong, will be brought before a judge in order to be detained pending charges, and has been provided with an interpreter. Officials said he could be charged with illegal transport of military materials.
The attorney general’s office did not release any further information about the ship or its crew.

A North Korean ship was detained in the Caribbean region in July 2013, near the Panama canal, when it was found to be carrying Soviet-era weapons from Cuba including two MiG-21 jet fighters, hidden under thousands of tonnes of sugar.

The United States and the U.N. both blacklisted two shipping companies which they said tried to hide the arms shipments destined for North Korea. Panama freed the ship and 32 crew to sail back to Cuba a year ago after most of a $1 million fine was paid. (Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta and Peter Murphy, writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; editing by G Crosse, Bernard Orr)
The Guardian, March 3, 2015

Colombia arrests captain of arms-trafficking ship bound for Cuba

Authorities find 100 tonnes of gunpowder and 3,000 artillery shells amid cargo

Documentation for Hong Kong-flagged ship made no mention of ammunition
Sibylla Brodzinsky in Bogotá

The captain of a Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship has been arrested in the Colombian port city of Cartagena, charged with arms trafficking for transporting undocumented large-caliber munitions, reportedly bound for Cuba.

The captain of the Da Dan Xia, a Chinese national identified as Wu Hong, was captured after authorities found 100 tonnes of gunpowder and 3,000 artillery shells among other munitions, an official from the Attorney General’s office told reporters.

The vessel was stopped on Saturday after authorities discovered the unregistered materials in eight shipping containers during inspection.

“Around 100 tonnes of gunpowder, 2.6m detonators, 99 projectiles and around 3,000 cannon shells were found,” the national director of the attorney general’s office, Luis González, said.

The documentation presented by the ship’s crew made no mention of the ammunition on board and instead listed the contents as chemicals and spare parts. “The documentation that the captain had in regards to the merchandise that was being transported in the China-flagged vessel did not correspond to what we found,” González said.

After stopping in Cartagena the vessel was bound for another Colombia port, Barranquilla, and then to Havana, Cuba.
Photos of the crates containing the gunpowder, published by the Cartagena newspaper El Universal, showed they were destined for a company called TecnoImport in Cuba, which according to several blogs is a procurement branch of the Cuban armed forces.

The company officially lists itself as an importer of machinery and industrial products. The supplier is listed on the crates as Norico, a Chinese manufacturer of machinery and chemical products, as well high-tech defense products.

Cuba is currently pushing the US to remove it from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, amid talks between the two countries aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations.

US president emphasizes there is considerable work to do as countries re-establish diplomatic ties but hopes embassies can open in coming weeks

The US first included Cuba on the list in 1982, accusing the communist government of sheltering members of militants including members of the Basque separatist group Eta and leftwing Colombian rebels.

For the past two years, Cuba has been the site of two-year-old peace talks between the Colombian government and leftist Farc rebels. However, there was no indication that the weapons were at all related to the Colombian guerrilla forces.

Although some news reports said the Da Dan Xia had sailed from Cartagena, the cargo-ship tracking website located the vessel still docked at the port on Tuesday.

The ship captain was to appear before a judge in Cartagena late Wednesday.

In July 2013, a North Korean ship was seized in Panama after leaving Cuba with Soviet-era weapons and fighter jets hidden under sacks of sugar.

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