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Inside the Hijacking of the Brillante Virtuoso Oil Tanker

Friday April 15, 2022
By Danielle Balbi

Illustration: Maxime Mouysset for Bloomberg Businessweek

The hijacking of the Brillante Virtuoso is one of the strangest episodes of high-seas piracy that anyone in the shipping industry can remember.

The giant oil tanker was attacked in July 2011 by bandits as it transited the Gulf of Aden, which at the time was thick with Somali pirates. The incident left a consortium of British and American insurers on the hook for almost $100 million in payouts to Marios Iliopoulos, the wealthy Greek businessman who owned the vessel. The insurers and Iliopoulos ended up locked in a bitter legal dispute, with each side accusing the other of breaking the law. British police had arrested Iliopoulos on suspicion of fraud; he denied wrongdoing and was never charged. Meanwhile, the insurers had hired a team of armed bodyguards for one of their lawyers in Greece, who’d been warned he was “marked for extermination.”

In an excerpt from the new book Dead in the Water by Bloomberg reporters Matthew Campbell and Kit Chellel, a pair of London private investigators squeeze a source who claims to know the truth. 

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