This system works to keep the industry rich and protected, but it also offers opportunities for the unscrupulous, in this case Marios Iliopoulos, a colorful Greek boss who owns Brillante and is found to orchestrate the hijacking and destruction of his own ship. The authors paint a vivid portrait of the man who raced under the name “Super Mario” and terrorized an English courtroom “with the unshaven features of a professional wrestler approaching his ring” after brief detention and interrogation in London. He frowned, arms dangling at his sides, shirt open on a wide stomach.
Mockett’s death provides the book with a strong emotional center and establishes the less central conflict between the distorted shipowner and the authorities, between the elite London insurance lawyers and two consultant investigators, whose primary purpose is to reduce their clients’ losses. Ex-cop Richard Veale and Michael Conner, who both want justice.
True stories often have more complicated endings than we prefer. Given the violent civil war in Yemen and the difficulty of working through local authorities in Aden, the facts point in a clear direction, but detectives cannot find Mockett’s killer or even who ordered the assassination. And while the detectives gather enough witnesses and evidence to prove that Iliopoulos orchestrated the “kidnapping”, surprisingly, he evades not only the criminal but also the financial consequences.
“In the confusing hell of insurance law, the owner of a sunken ship wasn’t the only person who could claim compensation from Lloyd’s. Instead, a shipowner’s claim may be ‘assigned’ to another entity that suffered a loss when the ship was destroyed. The authors conclude that the owner is “at least tens of millions of dollars better off.”
Sorting them all out couldn’t be easy. Campbell and Chellel expertly report and explain this, giving us a narrative that is both enlightening and thoroughly engaging. One yearns for a sequel in which justice is served.
Mark Bowden is a writer and journalist. “Stealing” is his latest book.
DEAD IN WATER: A True Story of Kidnapping, Murder and a Global Maritime Conspiracy, by Matthew Campbell and Kit Chellel | 288 p. | portfolio | $27