S'pore boat captain fined for illegal entry, faces fresh probe

Shoo in a Tanjung Pinang court in October last year. He pleaded guilty yesterday to entering Indonesia illegally, but now faces a separate investigation by the Indonesian Navy for allegedly sailing in Indonesia's waters without a permit, an offence t
Shoo in a Tanjung Pinang court in October last year. He pleaded guilty yesterday to entering Indonesia illegally, but now faces a separate investigation by the Indonesian Navy for allegedly sailing in Indonesia's waters without a permit, an offence that carries a maximum six years in jail.PHOTO: F. PANGESTU

Singapore fishing boat captain Shoo Chiau Huat, who has been detained in a Tanjung Pinang jail since April last year, was fined 50 million rupiah (S$5,300) after pleading guilty to entering Indonesia illegally.

But he remains in prison despite agreeing to pay the fine, said Shoo's lawyer after his sentencing hearing yesterday.

This is because the Indonesian Navy intends to pursue a separate case against him, for sailing in Indonesia's waters without a permit, an offence that carries a maximum six years in jail.

This would be the second time the Indonesian authorities are going after Shoo - for a different offence - since he was acquitted of illegal fishing in July last year.

At first, Shoo was visibly relieved when told by the judge yesterday that he would be freed and may return home after he pays the fine.

But his joy was short-lived when he learnt that his passport had been handed over to the navy as part of a separate investigation against him - which neither he nor his lawyer was aware of.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, Tanjung Pinang Naval Base commander S. Irawan confirmed yesterday that the navy was investigating an alleged breach of "sailing laws". "Once the immigration case is over, we will continue with the sailing case," he said. "This is to ensure a deterrent effect."

The prosecution, which had pushed for a fine that was double what the court meted out, still has seven days to appeal against yesterday's sentence.

As a result of yesterday's developments, Shoo's lawyer Herman Black has advised his client against paying the fine. "It's useless to pay the fine if Mr Shoo still cannot return to Singapore," he said.

He added that he has since updated the Singapore consulate in Batam about the case, but his client will still have to wait for the prosecution to decide whether it will proceed with the navy's allegations.

Shoo was ferrying 13 recreational anglers from Singapore and Malaysia on the MV Selin on April 16 last year when the boat was stopped by the Indonesian Navy in the waters of Tanjung Berakit, off Bintan island, for trespassing.

All 13 passengers were deported a week later but Shoo was charged with illegal fishing in Indonesian waters. A court, however, ruled that there was insufficient evidence to find him guilty of an offence under the Fisheries Act, and acquitted him in July.

Instead of being released, Shoo was charged with an immigration offence of entering Indonesia illegally, which he pleaded guilty to yesterday, in the hope of being able to put theepisode behind him.

He now has to wait for the prosecution to decide whether to appeal against his sentence, or whether the navy's case against him has any merit, said Mr Herman.

A veteran lawyer, who spoke to The Straits Times on condition of anonymity, said that if Shoo was accused of entering Indonesia illegally, he should have been deported according to immigration laws.

"This also seems to be a very unique situation where three institutions handed his case separately, and I find it very uncommon."

Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been monitoring Shoo's case with concern and had asked Indonesia to clarify the legal basis for his detention.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2017, with the headline 'S'pore boat captain fined for illegal entry, faces fresh probe'. Print Edition | Subscribe