HONG KONG - Shipping firm APL and a captain of its container ship have claimed trial to charges of importing nine Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) armoured vehicles to Hong Kong without the required licence, Apple Daily HK reported on Thursday (Feb 22).
Pan Xuejun, a 39-year-old Chinese national, was the captain of the vessel belonging to his employer APL Co. Private Limited which was transporting the nine Singapore-made Terrex infantry carriers back to Singapore after a military exercise in Taiwan in November 2016.
The ship stopped in Hong Kong on Nov 23, 2016, without an import licence issued by the city's Director-General of Trade and Industry. This led Customs officials to seize the Terrex vehicles.
Both APL and Pan pleaded not guilty on Thursday (Feb 22) to the charges in the District Court of Hong Kong, the Apple Daily report said, adding that the trial will be held in Mandarin on Oct 11, and is expected to last about 15 days.
In May 2017, Pan faced one count of importing strategic commodities without the necessary licence.
The prosecution later requested to combine Pan's charge with that faced by APL into a single case, and to transfer the case from West Kowloon Magistrate Court to a district court in Wan Chai, where the trial is now being held.
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 in Hong Kong.
According to Hong Kong's 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". But such a licence is required for certain types of strategic commodities.
The nine vehicles are designed and made in Singapore, and were introduced in 2009. The 24-tonne eight-wheelers can carry 13 soldiers each, travel at a top speed of 105kmh and are at home in water.
Investigations by Hong Kong authorities found no information that pointed to the possibility of the Singapore Government being involved in the breach of the licensing conditions.
The Terrex vehicles, which were seized on Nov 23, 2016, were kept in a Customs indoor storage facility during investigations. They were returned two months later to the Republic and arrived in Singapore on Jan 30, 2017.