Polish customs fire 'warning shot' at German booze boat
19 October 2006, Berlin (dpa) - A passenger ship in Polish waters fled back to Germany this week, ignoring a "warning shot" from a signalling pistol, Poland's legal affairs officer in Berlin confirmed Thursday. Both Germany and Poland were at pains Thursday to avoid recriminations about the incident. Germany's Foreign Office said it and German interior officials were trying to settle the matter quickly "in the spirit of good-neighbourly relations." Three Polish customs officers who were investigating possi
19 October 2006
Berlin (dpa) - A passenger ship in Polish waters fled back to Germany this week, ignoring a "warning shot" from a signalling pistol, Poland's legal affairs officer in Berlin confirmed Thursday.
Both Germany and Poland were at pains Thursday to avoid recriminations about the incident. Germany's Foreign Office said it and German interior officials were trying to settle the matter quickly "in the spirit of good-neighbourly relations."
Three Polish customs officers who were investigating possible smuggling on the Adler Dania, a floating shop, were taken to Germany against their will, Marek Wieruszewski, consul for legal affairs at the Polish embassy in Berlin, said. They returned home by land.
This could be described as a "mini-kidnapping," but the Tuesday incident had "in no way" caused international tension, he said.
The Adler Dania is operated by a German ferry company. It was taking 45 passengers on an "international" voyage to buy cigarettes and alcohol at cheaper prices. Since the incident, just before it docked in Swinoujscie, it has been declared undesirable in Poland.
Wieruszewski said the Polish customs office in Szczecin told him the signal flare had been fired as a warning shot.
The vessel's captain, Heinz Arendt, said three to four shots had been fired, using some kind of handgun, from the pursuing Polish patrol vessel while it was about 10 metres abeam of the Adler Dania.
The company operating the Adler Dania has fallen afoul of Polish customs in previous years and has had cigarettes confiscated. During Tuesday's inspection by plainclothes officers mingling with crew, sales staff were accused of breaching tax rules again.
Rainer Hingst, a German customs official in Stralsund, said the elaborate arrangements on the boat to avoid taxes included operating two separate bonded shops, one for German and the other for Polish territory. Germany had approved the German shop.
Hingst said it might well be that from the Polish point of view, the Adler Dania had been selling goods without paying sales tax.
Germany's NDR radio quoted Polish officials saying alcohol and cigarettes were on sale without Polish tax stickers on them.
The Sven Paulsen shipping company said it refused the order to stop because the Polish agents lacked European Union identity cards.
Alwin Mueller, the company's manager in the tiny German port of Heringsdorf, said, "The captain turned back because he had to protect his cargo, passengers and crew." The trips to Poland would resume Friday with another vessel.
"We won't give up," said Mueller. "We're not at war."
The Adler Dania had plied a route between Heringsdorf and Swinoujscie, 12 kilometres away, for the past three weeks.
Germany and Poland were at odds earlier this year over plans to build an undersea gas pipeline from Russia, bypassing Poland, and over a Berlin exhibition by ethnic Germans expelled from Poland after the Second World War.
Ruprecht Polenz, who chairs the foreign affairs committee of the German parliament, told the website Spiegel Online that he had phoned his Polish counterpart and both agreed it was purely a police matter, not a diplomatic issue.
Subject: German news