HONG KONG - More than two years after nine Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) armoured vehicles worth HK$136.6 million (S$24 million) were seized in Hong Kong, a court in the territory has imposed fines on both the shipping firm APL and ship captain Pan Xuejun for their roles in the case.
The District Court judge ordered APL to pay a fine of HK$90,000 (S$15,600), while Pan was fined HK$9,000 and given a suspended jail term of three months.
Singapore-based APL and Pan were found guilty earlier on Monday (April 29) of importing strategic commodities without the necessary licence.
This came after a two-week trial that began in October.
Both the firm and captain had denied breaching the Import and Export Ordinance, which carries a maximum sentence of a jail term of seven years and an unlimited fine.
In delivering his decision on Monday, Judge Stanley Chan said the firm and the captain would have known that the containers carried the Terrexes but they failed to notify Hong Kong Customs officials and failed to get the proper licence.
He rejected the defence that the two did not have a clue that the military vehicles were on board the vessel as the receiver was Singapore’s Ministry of Defence and the sender, Taiwan.
These information would have indicated the nature of the cargo.
Local media reported that the judge said the military vehicles “could not be stored in a normal container, but a flat rack container”.
And although a large canvas covered the vehicles, “the tyres could still be seen which could not be covered entirely”, so someone would have seen them.
Pan, a Chinese national, was the captain of the APL vessel which was transporting the nine Singapore-made Terrex troop carriers back to Singapore after a military exercise in Taiwan in November 2016.
The ship, APL Qatar, docked at Terminal 8 of Kwai Chung Container Port at 8.32am on Nov 23, 2016.
The court was told that Hong Kong customs officials checked their database, but the shipment documentation failed to mention that the containers housed the military vehicles, considered “strategic commodities”.
APL staff were later questioned, and the firm produced a document that described the goods inside the containers as “vehicles”.
In Hong Kong, “strategic commodities” must have a licence to be imported, issued by the city’s director-general of trade and industry, which APL and Pan did not have.
This resulted in Hong Kong officials impounding the Terrex vehicles. They were impounded at the River Trade Terminal in Tuen Mun and returned to the Singapore Government on January 26, 2017 after investigations wrapped up.
In response to media queries, the Ministry of Defence said the court proceedings and verdict are a matter between APL and the Hong Kong authorities, in accordance with the due process of the Hong Kong law.