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No Decision Made to Charge Captured Pirates, NATO Says

October 12, 2011

(Deletes reference to NATO decision in headline and first paragraph.)

Oct. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Italy has yet to decide whether to prosecute 11 pirates captured yesterday after they hijacked an Italian freight ship, according to NATO.

NATO forces detained the pirates on board the Montecristo after storming the vessel, Commander Geoff Bewley, Northwood, England-based counter-piracy spokesman for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, said by phone. Personnel on an Italian warship scheduled to rendezvous with the freighter today will decide if there’s enough evidence to file charges, he said.

Naval forces have caught and released as many as 1,500 pirates since the beginning of 2010 because they didn’t want their countries to have the responsibility of prosecution, Giles Noakes, head of security at the Baltic and International Maritime Council, said last month. Some pirates had been caught and released up to three times, he said.

“It isn’t a NATO call as to what happens” to the pirates, Bewley said. The Montecristo was 200 nautical miles (230 miles) southeast of Oman, and NATO forces freed 23 crew, he said.

Almost 90 percent of pirates are caught and released, Major General Buster Howes, operation commander for European Union Naval Force Somalia, told a U.K. government inquiry June 22. Thirty governments are supporting anti-piracy patrols covering 2.8 million square miles in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden, he said.

Attacks on vessels by Somali pirates operating in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, through which 12 percent of the world’s oil is carried, rose to a record in the first half of 2011, according to the International Maritime Organization, the United Nations’ shipping agency.

Pirates operating in an area as large as Europe attacked 187 vessels and hijacked 22 in the period, its figures show. Piracy costs the global economy an estimated $7 billion to $12 billion a year, the IMO estimates.

The council represents about 65 percent of the world’s ship owners, according to its website.

--Editors: Dan Weeks, John Deane.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michelle Wiese Bockmann in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Alaric Nightingale at

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