High Court denies banker's cash plea, blames casualty on fake pirate attack
UK High Court Judge Nigel Teare quashed a banker's plea for compensation on October 7, saying the loss of the 150,000-dwt tanker Brilliante Virtuoso, was caused by the wilful misconduct of its owner, Mario?s Iliopoulos, and likely involved a fake pirate attack off Yemen
UK High Court Judge Nigel Teare quashed a banker's plea for compensation on October 7, saying the loss of the 150,000-dwt tanker Brilliante Virtuoso, was caused by the wilful misconduct of its owner, Mario?s Iliopoulos, and likely involved a fake pirate attack off Yemen.
The case led to an unusually long trial, reported American Shipper. The tanker loaded with China-bound fuel oil in Kerch, Ukraine on June 23, 2011 for a lump sum of US$3.2 million, $500,000 to be paid in advance after the ship passed the Suez.
The vessel, insured for $77 million, six times its value, passed through the Suez Canal on June 30. Because it would traverse the Gulf of Aden piracy zone, arrangements were made for a security team to board off Yemen on July 6.
On July 5, a small boat approached with seven armed men aboard. They said they were 'security'; the master let them aboard. Once aboard, the armed men forced the crew to assemble and took the master to the bridge and chief engineer to the engine room.
The engine stopped on July 6. Fire broke out in the engine room. According to Teare's court ruling, 'The fire was started by the detonation of an improvised explosive incendiary device, an 'IEID,' which was brought on board the vessel by the armed men,' said the judge.
The captain radioed the USS Philippine - a US guided-missile cruiser on the hunt for pirates - and reported his ship was under attack. But Judge Teare noted: 'The armed men had in fact left the vessel, presumably by means of the small boat in which they had arrived.'
In the end, the ship was badly damaged and scrapped. The owner claimed it was a total constructive loss, but the insurers denied the claim, alleging that the fire was deliberately set.
In 2016, a UK judge ruled in favour of the insurers, finding that Mr Iliopoulos refused a court order to provide certain documents and lied to the court.
Said Judge Teare: 'There are many improbabilities which, when viewed collectively, suggest that the supposed attack by pirates was a fake attack. The improbable can happen. But when a number of improbabilities occur consecutively within a short period of time, it is very difficult to accept that they are coincidences.'
Commented American Shipper: 'What he's saying is that however bizarre the fake pirate-attack scenario sounds, the alternative is even more unbelievable.'
Mr Iliopoulos is currently chief executive officer of Greek ferry company SeaJets. He accepted the award on behalf of SeaJets from Lloyd's List for 2018 Passenger Line of the Year in the Greek Shipping Awards.
This July, he accepted a humanitarian award on behalf of his support of wildfire victims in Greece. New York?s FreightWaves has sought comment but to no avail.