It may well be excused if at first it seems there is likely to be no connection between the SCILLONIAN II and the story of one of the major maritime frauds. Chris Marrow kindly pointed out to me that the captain of the
OLGA J ( originally the SCILLONIAN II ) was one and the same as the captain of the SALEM, some years previously,
Dimitrios ("Jimmy") Georgoulis.
( before 1980 ) practised “driving” a supertanker, on the ALBAHAA B,
rumoured to have been used to deliver oil to South Africa, but which blew up,
reportedly “as a result of incompetent cleaning of her tanks”.
Reported there being an explosion, broke in tow, and sank Apr 03 1980
at position 07.00 S; 45.00 E. Off Dar Es Salaam with six sailors dead.
The owner of the ALBAHAA B subsequently lost his life in a mysterious plane crash over the Sudan desert.
The Salem, a supertanker secretly unloaded 192,000 tons of oil in Durban as part of an elaborate conspiracy involving representatives of the South African government and a number of businessmen.
The supposition is that the captain and owner of the OLGA J were up to the same trick on a smaller scale, but when the Israelis put a stop on the ship, and then the crew went on strike in Bourgas, their plans were thwarted,
and the theft of the navigating equipment when
the captain ran off was merely cutting his losses.
SALEM O.N. 5958, formerly SOUTH SUN,
Oil tanker built in 1969 : Kockums Shipyard at Malmo, Sweden.
Length 1037 feet, breadth 160 feet and depth 80 feet 4˝ inches.
Deadweight : 215,000 tons.
Gross Tonnage : 92,228
Power : Steam turbine 32,000 shaft hp, single propeller.
On January 17 1980, the SALEM sank in one of the deepest trenches in the Atlantic off the coast of Guinea. Both the ship and the oil that had been unloaded at Durban had been heavily insured at Lloyd's. The owners of the vessel had conspired with others to steal and then sell a cargo of oil. A suitable vessel called the “SOUTH SUN” was purchased. A master and officers were employed to play a part in the conspiracy. An innocent charterer was found in Italy, who wanted to ship 195,000 tons of crude oil to Genoa. By using a charterer the owner had no responsibility for the actions of the master and officers. The oil was bought from a Kuwait oil company ( light crude oil taken on at the Kuwaiti Port of Min Al Ahmadi ) and was paid for by the charterer. The original destination of the ship was Italy but 4 days out of the Kuwaiti Port, the Genoese Company which had bought the oil from the Kuwaitis sold it to Shell for 56 million dollars. The ship’s route was down the east coast of Africa, despite being bound for Italy. The vessel’s name was changed again, to “LEMA”. The ship dropped anchor off Durban, South Africa, a country in Embargo for oil. The ship then discharged 180,000 tons of oil and took on seawater to give the impression that it was still fully laden. Some days later the vessel, again renamed “SALEM” sank after an explosion off the coast of Guinea. It seems that the crew took to the boats and were picked up by a British ship whose crew were surprised to see that the shipwrecked sailors had had time to pack all of their belongings, duty free and had even prepared sandwiches for the trip! Furthermore, there were suspicions when it was noted that there was no pollution. A Tunisian crewman who was among the 25 rescued by a British ship ( BRITISH TRIDENT ), charges that the vessel was deliberately sunk after its cargo had been offloaded in Durban, South Africa. Investigations by Lloyds of London subsequently confirmed that it's cargo had been sold to SASOL, the South African Oil Company, by fraudsters for 43 million dollars and the ship scuttled to hide the fact.
In April 1984 three trials were held in different countries.
The Court of Piraeus convicted
shipping agent N.Myttakis to 11 years imprisonment,
chief engineer A.Kalomiropoulos to 4 years
second and third engineers I.Mavros and G.Theodossiou
to 3 years each,
radio officer V.Enangelides to 2 years and 2 months.
A conviction for Captain D. Georgoulis is not recorded here.
In total five of the total 13 accused Greeks were convicted.
Ten others implicated are still at large.
The ship owner Frederick Ed Soutan, an American,
was convicted by the US court to 35 years imprisonment.
One of the "brains" in this fraud, Anton Rijdel was tried in Amsterdam.
The incident was reported to be traceable back to Zug ( Switzerland ),
a town with some 10,000 international companies
( one for every two residents ).
One good thing has come about because of the SALEM Fraud, and that is that, in today’s market, if a VLCC supply of oil is offered for sale, oil companies now ask the buyer how and from whom it was obtained it in the first place.
Fraud of the Century: The Case of the Mysterious Supertanker Salem
by Arthur Jay Klinghoffer
Newspaper article by Michael Dobbs
in The Washington Post, Foreign Service Tuesday, March 13, 2001
I thank Chris Marrow for his help in some of the above text