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Finland says ransom demand received for missing cargo ship Arctic Sea
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12:38, August 16, 2009

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Finland's National Bureau of Investigation (NIB) said that a ransom demand has been received for the missing cargo ship, the Arctic Sea, according to local media report Saturday.

The NIB declined to say what the amount of the ransom is other than it is a significant sum.

According to information received by Finnish Broadcasting Company, the lives of the crew have been threatened if the ransom is not paid.

Viktor Matvejev, the CEO of Solchart Management which operates the Arctic Sea on Saturday declined to comment on the information released by the NIB. Solchart Management operates in Finland.

The Maltese-owned, Russian-crewed cargo ship disappeared two weeks ago while en route with a cargo of sawn timber from Finland to Algeria. The ship had been due to arrive in Algeria on Aug. 4.

The disappearance of the Arctic Sea, which dropped off the radar in the English Channel on July 28, has sparked intense speculation about its fate, with experts debating whether pirates, a mafia quarrel or a commercial dispute were involved.

Swedish police said the ship was hijacked in the Baltic Sea on July 24, when masked men claiming to be anti-drugs police boarded the ship, tied up the crew and searched the vessel. But the men reportedly left after about 12 hours.

Finland's NBI also believed that the ship was taken over by hijackers in July while still in the Baltic Sea. For that reason, Finnish officials have not released any information about possible contact with the vessel or when the ransom demand was received. Release of such information could endanger the 15-member crew.

The affair is being jointly investigated by Finnish, Maltese and Swedish police.

A European Union spokesman said Friday that the ship appeared to have been attacked twice but not in "traditional" acts of piracy, and Russian warships have been scouring the Atlantic Ocean for the vessel.

Source: Xinhua

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