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Seized Patriot missiles are legal shipment, Germany says

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 12:33 PM EST, Thu December 22, 2011
Finnish police impounded 69 Patriot missiles, bound for Asia. The Patriot is a surface-to-air missile system, seen in a file picture
Finnish police impounded 69 Patriot missiles, bound for Asia. The Patriot is a surface-to-air missile system, seen in a file picture
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: German Defense Ministry says the shipment was part of a military agreement with South Korea
  • NEW: This was to be the last such delivery, a ministry official says
  • Finnish authorities impounded 69 Patriot missiles and other materials
  • Two people were apprehended, Finland says

(CNN) -- A shipment of Patriot missiles that Finnish authorities found and seized was legal and authorized, the German government said Thursday.

A Germany Defense Ministry official said the missiles, found on board the Thor Liberty, were part of a German delivery for South Korea under a longstanding agreement.

This was to be the last such delivery, said Lt. Col. Holger Neumann.

Earlier, a customs official familiar with the case told CNN the shipment departed December 6 from the German port of Emden.

"The exporters had all necessary permissions, including an export authorization and a special authorization for the export of war weapons," the source said.

Finnish authorities said Wednesday they had impounded the 69 Patriot missiles and were investigating.

Police said they also found explosives and propelling charges aboard the British-flagged cargo ship at the port of Kotka, about 75 miles east of Helsinki.

Police said the shipment was headed for Shanghai, China, but Neumann and the customs official said the destination was South Korea.

The Patriot is a surface-to-air missile system manufactured by the U.S. company Raytheon and has been sold to various nations.

Finnish authorities found the defense materials during a customs search.

Authorities found 150 tons of explosives, Finland's National Bureau of Investigation said.

In a statement, the bureau said that on Wednesday evening, "customs apprehended two persons on a suspicion of an export offense" involving "defense supplies."

Defense forces were asked to assist in securing and guarding the materials, the bureau said.

CNN's Rick Noack and Diana Magnay contributed to this report.

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