Pirates received ransom payment in plastic bags

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The pirates took the cash from the bags and began counting it as soon as it arrived, say crew members.

29 April 2008

BILBAO - Pirates who took the crew of a Spanish fishing boat hostage in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia last week received a ransom payment in plastic bags stuffed with cash, sources close to the hostage negotiations revealed on Monday.

The 13 Spanish and 13 African crew of the Playa de Bakio, a Bilbao-based tuna fishing vessel, were freed unharmed on Saturday afternoon, six days after being taken hostage by pirates armed with grenade launchers off the Somali coast.

The boat was being escorted by a navy frigate to the Seychelles on Monday, where the crew is to be replaced.

A Somali official at the port of El Hud told Reuters on Sunday that the pirates had been paid EUR 1.2 million to let the fishermen go.

Sources have yet to be able to confirm the quantity of money or how the cash was brought onto the Playa de Bakio, although crew members said the leaders of the group took it from plastic bags and began counting it as soon as it arrived. They then divided it up among themselves and their men before heading for the Somali shore.

The Spanish government has said the intelligence services are investigating the whereabouts of the pirates. Spanish High Court Judge Fernando Andreu has also opened a judicial inquiry into the hijacking.

[El Pais / Karim Asry / Expatica]

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