08/24/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Italy Blocks North Korea Bound Yacht Sales

MILAN (AP) - Italian authorities say they have blocked the sale of two luxury yachts that were bound for North Korea in violation of international sanctions.

The Economic Development Ministry said Thursday that the euro13 million (about $18 million) order for the two seafaring yachts was initially made by an Austrian firm. A Chinese firm then stepped in to complete the purchase.

The ministry says an investigation determined that the yachts ultimately were bound for the reclusive communist nation. The impoverished nation relies on foreign aid to feed its 24 million people.

The 95-foot and 105-foot yachts were briefly seized by authorities, along with the payment, but have since been retuned to the yacht maker, Azimut. Azimut has not been accused of any wrongdoing.