London court makes final ruling in controversial piracy insurance fraud case

London court makes final ruling in controversial piracy insurance fraud case

An eight-year massive ship insurance fraud case came to a close yesterday with the High Court in London ruling that the Brilliante Virtuoso suezmax was not the victim of a pirate attack, but was intentionally damaged by the ship’s owner, Marios Iliopoulos.

The ship’s Greek owner and its creditor Piraeus Bank had said the tanker was hit by Somali pirates off Aden on July 5, 2011, with claims the ship was hit by an RPG. The subsequent fire damage made the vessel a total loss.

War risk underwriters however quickly took issue with the piracy claims and the matter went to court in 2012. Iliopoulos was arrested in 2016, charged with fraud, but the bank continued to fight for its piracy claims.

The court in the UK capital yesterday handed down its verdict, saying the ship’s beneficial owner was the “instigator of the conspiracy” to destroy the vessel in order to commit insurance fraud.

“I do not consider that there is a plausible explanation of the events which befell Brillante Virtuoso which is consistent with an innocent explanation,” the judge wrote. “I have found that in the present case a group of armed men, on the instructions of the Owner, were permitted to board the vessel and set fire to it, as part of an attempt by the Owner to defraud the Underwriters.”

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.

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