American Says Arms Seized by Brazilian Police Were For Ghana
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) _ An American arrested in Brazil said Wednesday six tons of weapons seized by federal police aboard the cargo ship he was on were destined to the defense ministry of Ghana.
However, the Argentine captain of the vessel said the weapons were bound for the West African country but were not to be delivered to Ghana’s government.
Last Friday, federal police in Rio de Janeiro impounded the Panamanian registered supply vessel ″Nobistor″ and arrested 18 people, including eight Americans and 10 Argentines.
According to Rio’s federal police chief, Fabio Calheiros Wanderley, the Americans said they were mercenaries and Vietnam war veterans.
Argentina’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday in a statement the arms were legally purchased in Argentina. It also indicated the weapons were destined for Ghana.
John Dee Early, who Calheiros Wanderley described as the leader of the Americans, told a tumultuous news conference Wednesday, ″as far as I know the weapons were for the ministry of defense of the state of Ghana.″
Early said he was 40 years old, and would not give his hometown, but said he was from the Midwest. He said, ″My people were hired to secure the cargo and make sure it got to where it was going without any interference.″
He said the cargo consisted of ″basic infantry weapons″ such as rifles, machine guns, sub-machine guns, hand and rifle grenades and revolvers.
Early, who denied reports he was a mercenary, said that after arriving in Ghana, he and his men were going to hold a demonstration with the weapons for the government and then organize a ″short training cycle for the Ghanaian armed forces and police.″
He said he was originally contacted in the United States by a man named Ted Bishop ″who identified himself as a liaison representative of the Ghanaian government.″
Eduardo Gilardoni, the Argentine captain of the vessel, said at a separate news conference that when the ship was 450 miles off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, ″I found out that the weapons were not destined for the Ghanaian government but to someone else.″ He said he did not know who was to receive the arms.
Gilardoni, 44, said that Early received, from the United States, a message on the ship’s radio ″informing him that the cargo was illegal. That it was not for the Ghanaian government.
″When he told me, I decided to suspend the trip. I wanted to return to Buenos Aires but the Americans wanted to stay in Rio de Janeiro,″ Gilardoni said.
He said the ship left Argentina on March 1 loaded with weapons manufactured in that country by a factory that supplies the Argentine armed forces.
Federal police say the men are being held for illegal entry into Brazil but could be charged with contraband of weapons and be sentenced to up to four years in jail.
Gilardoni said a man named Godfried Ossei ″who I think is Ghanaian″ contacted his company in Buenos Aires to make the voyage to Africa. He said the documents accompanying the cargo were ″obviously falsified because they said the weapons were for the government of Ghana when in reality they weren’t.″
The captain said that he would not answer questions about the Americans, saying it was better that Early provided that information.
Early said he was 40 years old, had a degree in journalism, was a commericial pilot, and did some fiction writing. He also said he was a former captain in the Special Forces, served in Vietnam from 1964 to 1968, and had taken part in long-range reconnaissance missions and the rescue of prisoners of war.
None of his statements were verified.