Pirates of the Mediterranean

Pirates have boarded a US$36million yacht popular with celebrities and robbed its passengers and crew of more than US$180,000 in cash.

Just before midnight, the gang of four masked men pulled up alongside the 178ft Tiara in a rubber dinghy off Porto Vecchio in southern Corsica, then stormed aboard wielding handguns and rifles.

Speaking French with a Corsican accent they ordered the captain to empty the boat’s safe then told the nine guests — who had paid US$240,000 for their one week charter — to hand over cash.

The French captain and his crew, as recommended, did not fight back. Within ten minutes of boarding the lavish craft, one of the world’s most expensive privately-owned sailing yachts, the gang had vanished. No shots were fired and nobody was hurt.

“The operation only took a few minutes and, apart from the threat of their weapons, the robbers did not commit violence against the ship’s occupants,” according to a source.

The vessel is owned by Israeli millionaire Jonathan Leitersdorf, and is up for sale. At the time of the attack there were German financiers on board.

Robberies from yachts are common in the Gulf of Aden and in parts of the Caribbean, but the French coastguard said last night that until this attack there had been no notable piracy raids on large vessels for several years.