SINGAPORE - The decision to release nine Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) armoured vehicles reflects the good and friendly relations between Hong Kong and Singapore, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.
Speaking to reporters after an event on Wednesday (Jan 25), Dr Ng said shipping firm APL has given its assurance to expedite the return of the Terrex infantry carrier vehicles once they are released by the Hong Kong authorities.
"Hopefully the Terrexes can leave Hong Kong soon, and arrive in Singapore to celebrate reunion for Chap Goh Mei," he said.
Chap Goh Mei, or the 15th night of Chinese New Year, is the last day of Chinese New Year celebrations. This year, it lands on Feb 11.
APL has also said it will transport the Terrex vehicles directly from Hong Kong to Singapore without making any stops, Dr Ng said, adding that it would take about a week to ship the equipment back.
On Tuesday, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Hong Kong's Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying had replied to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's letter to inform him that the Hong Kong authorities have completed their investigations and will be releasing the Terrex vehicles to Singapore through carrier APL.
Hong Kong Customs had, on Nov 23, detained the nine Terrex vehicles and other equipment on board a container ship transiting there. The vehicles were bound for Singapore after an SAF military exercise in Taiwan.
The shipment was impounded because vessel owner APL failed to provide appropriate permits for the vehicles, the South China Morning Post reported.
Earlier this month, Dr Ng told Parliament that PM Lee had written to Mr Leung to request that the vehicles be returned.
Hong Kong Commissioner of Customs and Excise Roy Tang said on Tuesday that Hong Kong had completed its investigation of the suspected breach and that the investigation might lead to criminal prosecution.
On Wednesday, Mr Tang told reporters the shipper could move the vehicles after all relevant paperwork had been completed, Reuters reported.
"We did not identify any information which points to the possibility of the Singapore government being involved in the breach of the licensing conditions," Mr Tang added.