Argentina replaces navy chief over ship row

The snap decision by the president follows Ghana's seizure of a naval training ship over a debt dispute.

    'Libertad' is being held in Ghana as collateral for a case filed in Ghana by a vulture fund involving Argentinian bond debts.  [GALLO/GETTY]
    'Libertad' is being held in Ghana as collateral for a case filed in Ghana by a vulture fund involving Argentinian bond debts. [GALLO/GETTY]

    The commander of Argentina's navy has resigned after the government punished two naval officers over Ghana's seizure of a three-masted tall ship over a dispute with creditors.

    The resignation on Monday came in response to the "Libertad" training ship being retained in the Ghanaian port of Tema near the capital Accra since October 2.

    A spokesperson from President Cristina Kirchner's office issued an abrupt statement on Monday to confirm that navy commander Admiral Carlos Alberto Paz had been replaced, without stating the reason for the decision.

    A defence ministry statement said the former organisational chief of the navy, Alfredo Mario Blanco, was being investigated for changing the ship's itinerary, citing "operational reasons".

    The navy's secretary general, Admiral Luis Gonzalez, was also suspended and is the subject of the investigation.

    Earlier, two officers had also been suspended by the Argentine defence ministry over the decision to have the Libertad stop over in Accra with more than 300 people on board.

    The vessel is being held due to investors filing a lawsuit in Accra to hold the Libertad as collateral pending payment of debts on Argentinian bonds which the government has defaulted on.

    A supposed "vulture fund" called NML Capital had purchased Argentine bonds at a discount when the country's economy was in free fall in 2000.

    NML Capital has since filed a claim in a Ghanaian court claiming it is owed more than $370 million, including the outstanding principle plus the interest.
     
    The majestic square-rigged ship used now by graduating Argentine naval cadets, established the world record in 1966 for a transatlantic crossing by a sailing ship.

    According to media sources, in 2011 the ship specifically made stops in the Latin American region, a move aimed at a dodging any lawsuits over unpaid debt.

    However in 2012 the ship toured Latin America, Europe and several ports in Africa before being seized in Ghana.


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