SAF armoured vehicles seized in HK moved to secure site: Mindef

Armored personnel carriers covered with green tarps are parked in a Hong Kong Customs and Excise facility in Tuen Mun, Hong Kong, China, on Nov 25, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

The Singapore Armed Forces vehicles seized by the Hong Kong customs have been moved to a secure area with access control, the Ministry of Defence said last night.

The nine vehicles and other equipment have been moved to the Hong Kong Customs depot at the River Trade Terminal, with the shipping containers that were opened for inspection resealed by the Hong Kong Customs, said Mindef.

An SAF team had arrived in Hong Kong at 9pm last Friday and yesterday met representatives of APL, the shipping line involved.

Mindef said the SAF team met the APL representatives "to assess the situation and to ensure that the nine Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICV) and associated equipment are sited in secure premises".

Yesterday, a report claimed that the APL vessel carrying the SAF vehicles docked in Xiamen in mainland China prior to Hong Kong.

The report by Hong Kong's FactWire news agency said the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department was tipped off by its mainland counterparts about the nine SAF armoured vehicles, leading to their seizure in Hong Kong last Wednesday.

Neither China nor Hong Kong has confirmed the report.

Citing customs sources, the report said the city's customs authority was told that the vessel, APL Qatar, did not have "approval notice" for the military vehicles. It said the shipment was discovered to have contained "undeclared military materials" when it stopped over at Xiamen's Haitian Container Terminals after leaving Kaohsiung in south Taiwan.

It is not known why the Xiamen customs authorities did not seize the vehicles but chose to tip off their Hong Kong counterparts instead.

Mindef did not comment on the FactWire report yesterday.

Hong Kong Customs did not respond to queries from The Sunday Times yesterday.

Last Friday, its spokesman had told The Straits Times it had intercepted 12 containers of "suspected controlled items" bound for Singapore during "a routine ship search". The vehicles were seized last Wednesday at the city's Kwai Chung Container Terminal.

Mindef said earlier the cargo had "no ammunition or sensitive equipment on board".

The SAF conducts overseas training in a dozen or so territories. In doing so, it hires commercial shippers to transport military equipment to and from Singapore.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 27, 2016, with the headline SAF armoured vehicles seized in HK moved to secure site: Mindef. Subscribe