Tall ship ship seized in financial dispute

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Argentina’s military intelligence director resigned Thursday, the latest casualty in a dispute between Argentina and an American hedge fund over ownership of an Argentine navy training ship that is impounded at a port in West Africa.

The departure of María Lourdes Puente Olivera, a civilian and the first woman to lead the intelligence agency, comes two days after the resignation of Argentina’s navy chief and the suspension of two other highly placed navy officials, according to an article in the New York Times.

Those events came amid a Defense Ministry investigation into a last-minute change to the tall ship’s itinerary, which had it stop in Ghana rather than Nigeria, as originally planned.

The Libertad, a three-masted tall ship with 330 navy cadets and crew aboard, was seized at Tema, an industrial port east of Ghana’s capital, Accra, on Oct. 2 through a court order obtained by N.M.L. Capital, a holdout creditor from Argentina’s default a decade ago that says it is owed more than $370 million. The creditor is among a few remaining holdouts that refused debt restructuring agreements in 2005 and 2010. It had tracked the Libertad through the ship’s website.

N.M.L., a subsidiary of Elliot Capital, a New York-based hedge fund with $20 billion under management, offered to release the ship if Argentina paid a $20 million security. It also offered to bear the costs of flying the sailors home.

Argentina’s foreign minister, Héctor Timerman, said in a statement, “The vulture funds have crossed a boundary in their attacks on the Argentine republic,” the newspaper reported. He said the seizure violated the Vienna Convention, which grants military vessels diplomatic immunity.

A judge in Accra ruled last Friday against that defense, saying Argentina “has in clear terms waived the immunity attributed to the vessel” in the contract it signed with N.M.L. Argentina sent a delegation of junior ministers last week to meet with government officials in Ghana. The Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mariano Lapeyre, declined to comment on the continuing talks.

The Libertad set sail in June. Tema was its 11th port of call in a six-month trip.

Argentina is accruing daily $50,000 berth fees while the Libertad is docked at the Tema port.

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