Germany: Impounded Patriot missiles were legit

A shipment of 69 surface-to-air missiles impounded by Finnish authorities was a legitimate delivery from Germany to South Korea.

Helsinki: A shipment of 69 surface-to-air
missiles impounded by Finnish authorities was a legitimate
delivery from Germany to South Korea, a German official said
on Friday.

The announcement came after Finnish authorities seized
the Patriot missiles and 160 tons of explosives on a
British-registered cargo ship and detained two Ukrainian crew
members on suspicion of violating weapons export laws.

Police said the missiles didn`t have the right transit
documents and the explosive picric acid wasn`t properly stored
on the M/S Thor Liberty, which docked in Kotka, southern
Finland, on December 15.

A spokesman for Germany`s Defense Ministry said the
missiles were an official shipment that was fully declared and
had all necessary clearings from German authorities.

"Those patriot guided missiles are from the Bundeswehr`s
stocks and have been shipped to South Korea" according to an
intergovernmental treaty, he said, declining to be named in
line with government policy.

He said no explosives were part of the shipment and he
didn`t have any information on that part of the impounded
cargo.

Finnish officials said the explosives were destined for
China. Markku Koskinen, the director of traffic operations at
the port of Kotka, said they were deficiently packed in wooden
boxes on open pallets and would be moved to metal containers
in line with rules on the maritime transport of explosives.

"We will do that as soon as the customs inspectors allow
us to," Koskinen told news agency. "Otherwise, the
shipment of explosives was legitimate and can continue on its
way to China as soon as it`s safely packed."

The ship sailed from the north German port of Emden on
December 13 and was en route to China, Finnish officials said.

It docked in Kotka to pick up a cargo of anchor chains and an
old paper machine.

Finnish officials impounded the cargo yesterday and
launched an investigation. Detective Superintendent Timo
Virtanen said the ship`s captain and first mate were detained.

"The missiles did not have the appropriate transit
papers," Virtanen said. "We are questioning all the other 11
crew members who are also Ukrainians."

Klaus Kaartinen, spokesman for the National Bureau of
Investigation, said Finnish police and customs would continue
their investigation into the cargo.

"Even if the missile cargo is a legitimate shipment, from
a Finnish point of view the law has probably been broken
because it was not properly declared," Kaartinen said. "Also,
the explosives were stored improperly."

American-made Patriot missiles are used to counter
threats, including aircraft, tactical ballistic missiles and
cruise missiles. They are part of the US Army`s weaponry and
were extensively used during the 1991 Gulf war.

Manufactured by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin Missiles and
Fire Control in Florida, Patriot missiles have been in service
in several countries, including Egypt, Germany, Greece,
Israel, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan and South Korea.

PTI