Greek ship in Atlantic coke bust

French Navy forces off the coast of Africa have boarded a Greek-owned freighter believed to have been transporting some 10 tons of cocaine to Europe, authorities in France and Greece announced yesterday. This was the climax of a joint operation using naval ships, aircraft and surveillance satellites, following lengthy cooperation between French, US, Spanish and Greek services. «The transport vessel was confiscated in the Atlantic, together with a significant quantity of cocaine, while five people have been brought before the authorities [in Athens] to testify and an investigation is under way,» a joint statement by the Greek police, coast guard and the financial crime squad (SDOE) said. The ship was boarded on Wednesday. According to a statement from the office of French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the ship, identified as the 100-meter Winner – Cambodian-flagged but managed by a Greek company named Polis and based in Piraeus – was being escorted to the French port of Brest for a full inspection of its cargo. The Winner was intercepted by two French frigates off the northwestern coast of Africa. As it ignored orders to stop, the naval vessels fired warning shots and, when the crew shot back, a firefight broke out before the vessel was boarded. One crew member was wounded. Sources in Athens said the ship may have been carrying some 10 tons of cocaine, but that the crew had managed to dump a lot of the cargo overboard.

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