March 24, 2017 / 5:05 AM / 4 months ago

Hong Kong prosecutes captain, shipper in Singapore troop carrier case

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FILE PHOTO - Armored troop carriers, belonging to Singapore, are detained at a cargo terminal in Hong Kong, China November 28, 2016.Bobby Yip/File Photo

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong authorities have launched a prosecution against the captain of the ship and shipping agent involved in transporting nine Singaporean armoured vehicles seized in the city last November.

Hong Kong customs officers seized the Terrex troop carriers as they were being shipped home from military exercises in Taiwan.

Singapore's armed forces have maintained long-standing if low key military training facilities in Taiwan, and Beijing officials used the seizure to warn countries against security ties with the island, which it regards as a breakaway province.

Master Pan Xuejun, 39, appeared in court on Friday charged with one count of importing strategic commodities without a necessary licence, the South China Morning reported.

The shipping company, APL, was also summoned and will appear in court at a later date, the paper reported.

An APL spokesperson told Reuters that the firm had yet to receive any summons but was "rendering its support" to Pan.

Pan was released on bail without entering a plea. He is due to reappear in court on May 19.

Hong Kong Customs and Excise officials confirmed that they launched prosecution cases against the shipping agent and the ship's master on Wednesday.

"After a thorough investigation, the Customs and Excise Department has sufficient evidence to prove a case in breach of the strategic control system," a Customs statement said.

Hong Kong returned the carriers to Singapore on January 24, with officials saying that the Singapore government would not be criminally prosecuted.

The seizure came amid some broader signs of strains between China and Singapore, which has deepened its security relationship with the United States over recent years and remains concerned over China's assertiveness in the disputed South China Sea.

Reporting by Venus Wu and Greg Torode; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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