Brazil names Greek-flagged tanker as top suspect in oil spills

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) –


A Greek-flagged tanker is the main suspect in oil spills that have been appearing along the coast of Brazil for two months, the defense ministry said Friday.

The oil began appearing in early September and has been seen along a 2,000-kilometer (1,200-mile) stretch of the northeastern Atlantic coast.

The ministry said a search warrant for the unnamed ship had been issued while the attorney general's office said the damage to Brazil's coasts was "immeasurable."

Separately, police raided the offices of a company linked to the owners of the ship, federal police said.

The defense ministry says the ship was transporting oil from San Jose in Venezuela to South Africa.

Investigators studied 1,100 ships navigating through the area before narrowing down the potential culprits to 30, and then settling on the Greek-flagged ship as the "prime suspect."

The ministry said in a statement it had compared satellite images from June 29 displaying "an oil spill" to others from earlier dates without the black mark.

It said the suspicious ship had not deactivated its satellite monitoring system and at no point had it communicated to Brazil's maritime authority information regarding a spill.

Investigations are ongoing to see if the spill was accidental or criminal, the ministry said.

Nine Brazil states have been affected and thousands of volunteers have mobilized to clean beaches in the country.