Bulgarian Court Rejects Seizure of Libyan Tanker, Declares It Illegal

Той отплава за Турция, но го върнаха
by Екип на Биволъ

The rule of the Burgas District Court from December 21, 2018 (see here, in Bulgarian) declares illegal the actions of the private law enforcement agent (PLEA) Totko Kolev in the public sale of the Libyan tanker BADR. On the same day, the tanker was seized in a pirate action at the request of the new owner, Bulgargeomin, with the participation of border police, Maritime Administration and thugs.

Another rule of the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) from January 2, 2019 (see here, in Bulgarian), declares illegal the arrest of the tanker by Maritime Administration. But it came too late. The ship is already outside the Bulgarian Black Sea territorial waters. On Thursday January 3, it left for Turkey around 6 pm (UTC) or 8 pm Bulgarian time.

At around 6 am (UTC) on January 4, BADR was already in Turkish waters across from Ineada, indicates the Marine Traffic navigation system, where its route can be tracked in real time. At 9:53 am (UTC), the tanker headed north at a speed of about 5 knots. At the time of posting the article, the last signal from the ship’s AIS system was recorded at 9:57 am (UTC) or 11:57 am Bulgarian time. No new data has been available since then.

Updated at 3 pm on January 4: According to the latest data, BADR is traveling north at a speed of 5 knots. It has been intercepted across from the Bulgarian coastal town of Ahtopol

Pirate hijacking in European waters

On December 21 the tanker was raided by 30 armed guards from a private company, actually hijacking it with the help of border police and Maritime Administration officers. Captain Abdullah Abdul Jalil had been abused by both thugs and an officer from border police, he says in a notarized complaint. He and his crew had been forced to disembark the ship and were deported from Bulgaria. Bivol published a detailed article on this unprecedented pirate act in European waters on January 1.

The Marine Traffic navigation system shows that the Maritime Administration’s cutter has reached BADR and has made two trips to the port in same the time interval described by the Captain of the ship in its complaint.


The Marine Traffic navigation system displays the route of the Maritime Administration’s cutter on the day of the BDDR tanker hijacking

Reached for comment, Zhivko Petrov, Director of Maritime Administration, said that everything was legal and that the ship was properly arrested to secure a mortgage claim at the request of a PLEA. According to Captain Petrov, the actions of Maritime Administration Burgas are fully in line with the Bulgarian legislation, which stipulates that in Bulgaria a PLEA may change the ownership of a foreign vessel which is subject to the international maritime law.

On the second day following Bivol’s publication, January 2, SAC issued a final rule, declaring the arrest of the BADR by Maritime Administration illegal and in violation of the conventions on the Law of the Sea to which Bulgaria is a party. The court says that Maritime Administration had no right to impose an arrest to secure a private claim, such as the claim of Bulgargeomin through PLEA Totko Kolev. Under international and Bulgarian law, port authorities may retain a foreign ship only to secure public obligations, not private ones.

After the SAC issued its decision, Maritime.bg published the following opinion of Mohammed El Ahrech, representative of the owner of the vessel:


“I have no words to describe what we feel and think about justice in your country. The court eventually released our tanker, but accidentally or not, it is already stolen, it is near a Turkish port, and the mobsters behind this unprecedented in the global maritime industry act will try to resell it.”

Mohamed El Ahrech, representative of G.N.M.T.C

Our attempt to contact the Chief of Maritime Administration – Burgas, Alexander Iliev, to comment on the decision of the court revoking his order failed. The Ministry of Interior (MoJ) refused to provide the documents on the basis of which the raid of BDDR was made on December 21.

Arrest because of a fake maritime mortgage

We recall that the ship was arrested in the port of Burgas at the end of November 2017 after Bulgargeomin Ltd claimed a maritime mortgage on the vessel that has been proven fake for securing receivables of the defunct State company Bulgargeomin transferred to a private one with the same name. The owners of the waste management company Titan and a group of Bulgarians involved in dark deals with the Italian mafia are behind the new Bulgargeomin.

The maritime mortgage document also bears the signature of notary public Ioanna Andreadaki from Athens, who publicly asserts that she has never signed under such a deal and has filed a complaint with the local Prosecutor’s Office for forgery.

Maritime.bg has published the notary’s complaint to the Greek Public Prosecutor’s Office detailing how the fraud has occurred. Andreadaki has been approached by a Greek businessman to arrange a maritime mortgage contract. She has prepared the papers and has handed the drafts to the businessman for him to show them to the proxies of Bulgargeomin and to the Libyan side. However, the proxies have not shown up at the scheduled day and time for the signing of the mortgage. Thus, no mortgage on the BADR tanker has been recorded and it does not exist in the legal world. According to Andreadaki, the drafts had been used to produce a counterfeit mortgage with her forged signature and stamp.

Bivol contacted Ioanna Andreadaki by phone and she fully confirmed the information that she had not registered such a mortgage and had filed a complaint with the Greek Prosecution Office for the forgery of her signature and seal.

Andreadaki’s assertions are also cited in the decision of the Supreme Court of Cassations (SCC), which ruled in May 2018 that the ship’s arrest was unlawful, while indicating that the new Bulgargeomin had no right to be involved in these legal proceedings.

The rule and the forgery have not prevented PLEA Totko Kolev from filing a mortgage claim and from requesting on its basis the re-arrest of the ship. Maritime Administration has seen it as legitimate and has acted on it in violation of the law, as it now emerges. Meanwhile, Kolev has advanced the public sale, has transferred the ownership to Bulgargeomin and the new owner has managed to change the flag from Libyan to Panamanian.

Thus, a purely criminal scheme that violates several Bulgarian laws has been used to practically hijack a huge ship in an action reminding of a movie script, with all the requisites of a pirate attack, but organized by the Bulgarian authorities.

The timing of the hijacking and the court rules clearly show that significant government resources have been mobilized to overcome the rule of law and for the legitimate owners to face a “fait accompli”. After all, if this ends in international arbitration and Bulgaria is sentenced, the bill will be footed once again by the Bulgarian taxpayers instead of those from Maritime Administration and border police responsible for the raid.

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