Panama Releases Detained N. Korean Weapons Ship, 3 Crew Still Held


After six months, the Panamanian authorities have released the North Korean ship Chong Chon Gang, which was seized while transporting undeclared weapons.

The vessel will be delivered at the Port of Sherman in Panama’s Colon Province in the presence of the country’s prosecutor against organized crime, Nathaniel Murgas. Additionally, 32 of the 35 detained crewmembers who were aboard the ship will also be released – as they were unaware of the cargo. The remaining 3 crewmen, including the captain, will continue to be held and face charges of arms trafficking.

The crew was being been held in a former U.S. military base in Colon, near where the ship was being held.

The Panama Canal Authority imposed a fine of US$1 million for violating safety rules of the channel. Legally, the ship is free to leave, but cannot ‘move’ until the fine is paid or resolved.

The Panamanian Security Ministry said a preliminary investigative report by a panel of United Nations experts determined that the Cuban weapons violated sanctions restricting weapons trading with North Korea. North Korea continues to claim that it had a valid contract to overhaul aging weapons to be sent back to Cuba.

The North Korean freighter Chong Chon Gang was arrested in July while attempting to cross the Panama Canal with illegal Cuban weapons hidden under tons of sugar bags. A North Korean delegation arrived last week to negotiate the return of the ship and crew.





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