An in-depth look at the Brillante Virtuoso maritime fraud could provide material for a new TV programme.

Underwriters at the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) conference in Edinburgh this week revealed a screenwriter has been in contact with the idea of turning the incident into a TV project.

TradeWinds mistakenly reported that Netflix was behind the programme, but the project does not involve the streaming giant.

TV interest follows an earlier book on the incident entitled Dead in the Water, which was penned by two Bloomberg journalists.

The July 2011 incident has the ingredients of high drama, excitement and intrigue that could make for compelling TV.

It was claimed the 150,000-dwt Brillante Virtuoso (built 1992), owned by Greek shipowner Marios Iliopoulos, was destroyed by a bomb planted by pirates who boarded the ship in the Gulf of Aden claiming to be local authorities.

An inspection by surveyor David Mockett shortly after the incident raised suspicion over whether it was a pirate attack. He reported to insurers that “evidence of a grenade explosion was not seen”.

Mockett was killed seven days later by a car bomb.

Insurers took the case to a British High Court, claiming the incident was an elaborate fraud.

There was $77m of war risk insurance placed on the ship, valued at little more than $13.5m at the time.

Piraeus Bank held $60m of debt on the tanker.

High Court judge Justice Nigel Teare sided with the underwriters after a 50-day hearing in 2019.

“The evidence relating to the loss, the crew’s untrue evidence in their early witness statements that the armed men described themselves as the authorities and Mr Iliopoulos’ motive for setting fire to the vessel amount to a cogent and compelling case that the events were orchestrated by him,” Justice Teare said in his final ruling.

Sir Nigel Teare was the judge in the Brillante Virtuoso trial. Photo: Quadrant Chambers

Despite the judgement, underwriters remain dissatisfied with the outcome.

Speaking at the IUMI conference, Paul Cunningham, marine claims manager for Everest Insurance, and Chris Zavos of Kennedys Law acting for insurers in the case, revealed that underwriters still had to pay out despite winning.

Under the wording of the mortgage insurance, the debt on the ship was effectively written off and the Piraeus Bank’s mortgage on the ship was also paid in full.

Ship’s insurers also met the salvage costs running to the tens of millions of US dollars.

The trial had also been an extremely stressful experience for the pair.

They are also unhappy that, despite the wishes of David Mockett’s widow, Cynthia, a full criminal investigation has never been undertaken into his death.

The Brillante Virtuoso’s shipowning company Suez Fortune Investments has consistently denied any wrongdoing and questioned the court findings.

“The court accepted there was no direct evidence of the involvement of Mr Iliopoulos and that the decision was reached on the balance of probabilities,” the company said in a statement following the trial.