The Hong Kong port authorities who had earlier stated their legal position that the Terrex infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICV) were impounded over licensing issues have said in a press release today (24 Jan) that their probe might lead to criminal prosecution.
The Defence Minister, Mr Ng Eng Hen had said in November last year that the Government may start proceedings to recover the armoured vehicles.
A lawyer based in London, Tan Wah Piow writing for this publication in December said that an industry expert informed him that “it’s a legal responsibility of exporter/shipper to ensure he has the right licences and custom permits to export/import military equipment of any kind.”
“Any military equipment is highly controlled and not easily transportable without government permits. That include transit permits.”
“The expert, having examined the strategic trade control system of Hong Kong, advised that there are stringent licensing control of strategic commodities in transit. The Armoured Personnel Carriers would come under Schedule 1 of the Import and Export (Strategic Commodities) Regulations of Hong Kong as the Munitions List covers items specially designed for military use. Transit licence is therefore required regardless of whether the shipper/ exporter is a government or government body.
She further said “From online reports, Hong Kong customs seized the cargo on the basis of suspicion of arms trafficking. I am guessing it is based on the position of the cargo on the vessel (loaded below deck and surrounded by conventional shipping containers, giving the impression of an attempt at concealment.
The shipper APL (the shipper) is well established in the industry, she acknowledged. How this incident could happen is therefore intriguing as APL ought to know that anyone transhipping military goods via Hong Kong must produce a transit licence. The Singapore Armed Forces as the exporter should likewise be aware of such a legal requirement.” (http://www.theindependent.sg/the-armoured-personnel-carriers-incident)
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) reported today that the Chief Executive of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Leung Chun-ying has replied to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s earlier letter to inform him that the Hong Kong authorities have completed their investigations, and will be releasing the SAF Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles and other equipment to the Singapore Government through the carrier.
The Ministry described this as a “positive outcome” and that Prime Minister Lee has replied to Chief Executive Leung to thank him for Hong Kong’s cooperation in resolving this matter.
Both MFA and the Hong Kong customs did not report when the Terrexes will be released and reach Singapore.