HELSINKI — Finnish authorities on Wednesday impounded 160 tons of explosives and 69 surface-to-air missiles found on a British-flagged cargo ship ultimately destined for Shanghai, China, officials said.
The M/S Thor Liberty sailed from the north German port of Emden on Dec. 13 and two days later docked in Kotka, southern Finland, to pick up a cargo of anchor chains, Finnish Customs spokesman Petri Lounatmaa said.
Investigating officers didn't know the origin of the Patriot missiles or who was supposed to receive them, he said.
"We have impounded the explosives and missiles and asked the Defense Ministry to transport and store them," Lounatmaa said. "At this stage we don't know where it (the cargo) was loaded on the ship or if the Thor Liberty planned a drop before its port of destination in China."
Detective Superintendent Timo Virtanen of the National Bureau of Investigation said dock workers found the explosives – picric acid – badly stored on open pallets instead of in closed containers. They alerted inspectors who found the missiles in containers marked as holding fireworks.
Interior Minister Paivi Rasanen said she had not heard of a similar case.
"Of course, there are legal transports of weapons or defense material (through Finland) but in this case the cargo was marked as containing fireworks," Rasanen told national broadcaster YLE TV. "That is quite unusual."
Lounatmaa said customs officials and police have launched a joint investigation into a possible breach of Finnish export and weapons trading laws.