Cocaine captain gets 20 years

RENNES, France (AFP) – The Greek captain and Chilean and Cypriot crew members of a cargo ship were convicted here on Saturday of cocaine smuggling, receiving prison terms ranging from three to 20 years. Georgios Boreas, 61, captain of the Winner freighter, received a 20-year-prison term while his Cypriot chief mechanic Symeon Theophanous, 59, was given 18 years for «attempting to import drugs as part of an organized group.» Two Chilean sailors received 10- and three-year terms. During a joint operation by Greek, Spanish and US authorities, the Winner was intercepted in June 2002 by the French navy off the west coast of Africa, while apparently heading for Bilbao in Spain, and escorted back to the French port of Brest. Police found around 90 kilos of cocaine on board the Cambodian-registered vessel, but said they believed its crew had thrown up to 2 tons of the drug worth 243 million euros overboard. Crew members put up strong resistance during the raid, forcing the French navy to fire at the vessel several times and send in an elite commando unit. One of the 12 crew members, a Spanish national, died the following month in a Senegal hospital from injuries sustained during the assault. The 11 other seamen were placed under provisional detention in France pending the criminal proceedings, which have now been completed. Seven of the crew – four Romanians and three Ukrainians – were acquitted. Originally detained in Brest in 2002 they were released into the town nine months later after going on a lengthy hunger strike. The four convicted men were cleared of the main charge of leading a drug-smuggling organization.