The ‘Nino Maravilla’ is currently being investigated by a multi-agency group of Cook Islands government departments including Police, Marine Resources, Customs and Immigration. Cook Islands Police have said they consider the vessel “to be of significantly high interest” and have sought international cooperation in their ongoing investigation.
While it had been reported that the boat was Asian, it is actually of Ecuadorean origin, with its eight crew members, including the captain, being nationals from the South American continent. Rumours are rife that the vessel had been caught transporting illegal drugs into the Cook Islands, but an official police statement made no mention of this. “A multi-agency effort has been underway since the beginning of this week in the investigation of a foreign vessel, which arrived at Aitutaki last Thursday,” it read.
“The combined law agencies group (that included Police, Marine Resources, Customs and Immigration) was necessary due to the respective jurisdictional responsibilities in looking into a number of discrepancies raised with the vessel’s unexpected arrival.
“Another interested party – a man with a connection to the vessel – arrived from Fiji last Friday. He is also assisting the authorities with their enquiries.”
During the course of the investigation the crew has been accommodated near the harbour at Aitutaki and are said to be cooperating with authorities.
They initially claimed their fishing vessel had been drifting, but certain information provided by them revealed irregularities – including the failure of most crew members to produce any valid passports. - SB