JAKARTA • Fishing boat captain Ricky Tan Poh Hui is free to return home to Singapore after he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six months' probation yesterday for trespassing in Indonesian waters last August.
The Tanjung Pinang District Court declared him a free man after imposing probation and a 5 million rupiah (S$520) fine on him, but agreed with the prosecution that if Tan were to re-offend during his probation period, he would be jailed for three months.
Presiding Judge Jhonson Sirait said the verdict was in line with what prosecutors had demanded against Tan. "This is a guilty verdict, which serves to teach a lesson to the defendant and other parties," he added.
Speaking to The Straits Times over the phone, Tan said: "I'm very happy, and relieved that this matter has come to a conclusion." He added that he looks forward to reuniting with his family, and feels like a weight has been lifted from his chest.
But he declined to elaborate further on his experience during his detention.
Tan was at the helm of the Seven Seas Conqueress when he was stopped by an Indonesian navy patrol on Aug 20 last year in waters off Bintan island, according to prosecutors.
His three-member crew and nine passengers were released 12 days after their boat was detained, but the 45-year-old captain had remained in the navy's custody since last August.
Defence lawyers had argued during the earlier stages of his trial that the engine of the Seven Seas Conqueress had stalled and that the vessel had drifted into Indonesian waters momentarily due to the breakdown.
They were also planning to present evidence to prove that Tan and the Malaysia-flagged charter boat were heading towards "Batu Puteh" instead of Indonesia.
Pulau Batu Puteh is the name Malaysia uses for Pedra Branca, an island located about 40km from the east coast of Singapore. Last month, Malaysia filed an application to overturn a 2008 judgment awarding Pedra Branca to Singapore.
Tan's lawyer Purwanto Putro said he may be free to return to Singapore as early as tomorrow but The Straits Times understands that it may take a week before he can be deported.
Prosecutor Supardi also said the state still has a week to decide whether to appeal against the verdict before commencing deportation procedures.