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Arctic Sea vessel due in Malta for handover on Tuesday - owner

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The Russian-crewed and Maltese-flagged cargo ship at the center of a mysterious hijacking case is currently being towed towards Malta and may be handed over on Tuesday, the ship's Finnish owner said.

ST. PETERSBURG, October 26 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian-crewed and Maltese-flagged cargo ship at the center of a mysterious hijacking case is currently being towed towards Malta and may be handed over on Tuesday, the ship's Finnish owner said.

"The Arctic Sea might be there as soon as tomorrow, in the afternoon," said Viktor Matveyev, director of Solchart, which holds 100% in the Maltese firm that owns the vessel.

Matveyev earlier said he would travel to Malta to discuss details of the vessel's handover.

The ship had been anchored to the east of Gibraltar for weeks guarded by two Russian vessels as Algeria denied entry to the vessel.

The Arctic Sea disappeared in the Atlantic on July 24 while carrying a cargo of timber worth $2.1 million from Finland to Algeria and was recovered off West Africa on August 17, when eight alleged hijackers were arrested.

The disappearance, which triggered a major international search effort, raised suspicions about a "secret cargo" of drugs or weapons carried by the ship. Russian authorities have denied the rumors, saying the vessel was hijacked by criminals who demanded a ransom.

Eleven of the 15 Russian crewmen have since been sent home. The captain and three crew members are still on board, along with Russian investigators.

Matveyev said Malta's maritime officials intended to examine the ship before deciding whether to allow it to enter the port of Valletta or not.

 

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