Argentine ship to leave Tema

Argentina flew a crew of 98 sailors to Ghana on 18 December to facilitate the return the Argentine naval ship which had been detained in the port of Tema since 2 October.

The move follows an order by Hamburg's International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea which ruled on 15 December that the ARA Libertad be released immediately.

The three-masted navy training vessel, classed by Argentina as a frigate, had been seized at the request of US hedge fund NML Capital Ltd, a Cayman Islands-based affiliate of investment firm Elliott Management. The hedge fund said it would only release the ship if Argentina paid it at least $20 million of the $300 million on state bonds it owes from a decade ago.

NML, which has long sought to collect it defaulted debt relating to Argentina's economic collapse in 2002, had been tracking the ship's tour of west Africa and filed a lawsuit as soon as it docked in Tema.

Ever since it was seized, Argentina has claimed that the ship's detention by creditors was illegal due to the vessel’s military nature, a claim subsequently overruled by a Ghanaian court.

The UN decision has been dismissed by Elliot Management which said that the Ghanaian courts had sole jurisdiction over the dispute. The investment firm said it was "completely inappropriate" for the UN court to "attempt to interfere with orderly proceedings of the independent judiciary of Ghana."

However the UN's decision was welcomed by Argentine president Cristina Fernandez who described the hedge fund operators as "vultures", while the country's economy minister Hernan Lorenzio tweeted that "Argentina will continue to defend itself from the financial pirates."

The Libertad is expected back in Buenos Aires on 9 January, ahead of most of its original crew members who flew home in late October.

Wanted in Africa
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