HONG KONG - The captain of a ship who was charged with importing nine Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) armoured vehicles to Hong Kong without the necessary licence returned to court on Friday (May 19) morning.
Pan Xuejun, a 39-year-old Chinese national, was the captain of a vessel belonging to his employer APL Co. Private Limited transporting the Singapore-made Terrex infantry carriers back to Singapore after a military exercise in Taiwan.
The ship stopped in Hong Kong on Nov 23 without an import licence issued by the city’s Director-General of Trade and Industry. This led Customs officials to seize the Terrex vehicles.
Pan faces one count of importing strategic commodities without the necessary licence. His case was first mentioned at the West Kowloon Magistrate Court in March. He did not enter a plea and was allowed bail of HK$50,000.
On Friday, the prosecution requested to combine Pan's charge with that faced by APL into a single case.
The combined charge states that APL and Pan allegedly imported nine vehicles designed or modified for military use under a sea waybill, without an import licence issued by the director general of trade and industry.
Prosecution also requested to transfer the case from West Kowloon Magistrate Court to a district court in Wan Chai, with the next hearing fixed on June 6.
If convicted, Pan could face a fine and up to seven years in jail. APL faces similar penalties.
If the case remained in the magistrate court they would face a maximum of two years' imprisonment if found guilty.
According to the Hong Kong Customs authorities, all vessels must fully declare all cargo on board before docking at its port. Generally, cargo in transit does not require an “import or export licence”. However, such a licence is required for “certain type of strategic commodities”, said its spokesman in a statement last year.
During investigations, the Terrex vehicles were kept in a Customs indoor storage facility.
On Jan 24, Singapore’s Foreign Ministry said that Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying had replied to an earlier 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 were returned and arrived in Singapore on Jan 30.