HONG KONG - The captain of a container ship belonging to shipping company APL was charged on Friday (March 24) for not having a required licence when the vessel stopped in Hong Kong with nine Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) armoured vehicles on board last November.
Pan Xuejun, 39, who appeared at West Kowloon Magistrate Court for the first time, did not enter a plea. The Chinese national told the court in Mandarin that he understood the charge after it was read out to him in Cantonese.
Pan was charged with one count of importing strategic commodities without the necessary licence. He was allowed bail of HK$50,000 (S$9,004) and his case has been adjourned to May 19.
If convicted, he could face an unlimited fine and jail for seven years.
Pan declined to give any comment when approached by The Straits Times outside the court. APL, which is also facing prosecution, did not reply to queries from The Straits Times.
The court heard that on Nov 23, Pan was the captain of a vessel carrying the Singapore-made military vehicles to Hong Kong and failed to obtain an import licence issued by the Director General of Trade and Industry.
This led to the seizure of the Terrex vehicles which were transiting in the city's port. The state-owned vehicles were being shipped back to Singapore after they had been used in a military exercise in Taiwan. During investigations by Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department, the vehicles were kept in a Customs indoor storage facility for two months.
The court also heard that the prosecution wants to combine Pan's case with that of another defendant, understood to be APL. It is not known when APL will be charged.
A spokesman for the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department told The Straits Times earlier that it "has sufficient evidence to prove" that both APL and the captain had breached the law.
Investigations completed by the department in January had found that the Singapore Government could not be held responsible for the breach as it was only the consignee of the military vehicles.
On Jan 24, Singapore’s Foreign Ministry said that Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying had replied to a letter from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to inform him that the Hong Kong authorities had completed their investigations and would release the vehicles and equipment.
The Terrex vehicles left the Hong Kong port on Jan 27 on an APL ship and arrived in Singapore three days later.