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Pirates' trial reveals 'Alakrana' payoff was made

Foreign Minister denies government collusion; hijackers sentenced to 439 years

When the Spanish fishing vessel Alakrana was released from the hands of pirates in the Indian Ocean in November 2009, then-Deputy Prime Minister María Teresa Fernández de la Vega stated unequivocally that "Spain did not pay any ransom money."

On Tuesday in the High Court, two of the hijackers, Abdu Willy and Raageggesey Adji Haman, were each sentenced to 439 years for their part in the attack but the ruling has pushed the government onto the back foot over the supposed payment of 2.7 million euros to the pirates to secure the Alakrana's safe return.

"Without doubt a public organism linked to the Spanish government" paid such a ransom, the court ruling read. Shortly after the release of the crew, the head of the CNI intelligence service, Félix Sanz, appeared before a congressional committee to explain the situation surrounding the freeing of the Alakrana, but when asked by the High Court to reveal the content of the meeting, Sanz said it was classified information.

Foreign Minister Trinidad Jiménez reiterated on Tuesday that no payment had been made. "All that mattered was the crew was returned safe and sound," she said.

"[The government's] word has been called into doubt," Popular Party spokeswoman Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría countered.