In a ruling issued Monday, the High Court of London ruled that the tanker Brillante Virtuoso was irreparably damaged not by pirates, as her owner and banker claimed, but by a group of conspirators. Justice Nigel Teare found that the owner’s claims of piracy were improbable, and he reached the “firm conclusion” that the attackers intended to destroy the vessel, that they had the assistance of the master and chief engineer as they went about the task, and that the owner orchestrated the scheme in order to defraud his insurer.
On July 6, 2011, Brillante Virtuoso was drifting off Aden, awaiting a team of unarmed security contractors before transiting Bab el-Mandeb. A small boat approached carrying seven masked, armed men. The men informed the crew that they were “security,” and they came aboard with the master’s permission. (The disputants in the case agreed that the boarding party’s members were likely current or former Yemeni Coast Guard or Navy servicemenbers.) They ordered the crew to the day room, and escorted the master to the bridge and the chief engineer to the engine room.
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