HONG KONG: Hong Kong authorities have launched a prosecution against the captain of the ship and shipping agent involved in transporting nine Singaporean armored vehicles seized in the city last November.
A total of 16 individuals have been charged in connection with the GDMA investigation, including 11 current or former US officials.
In June, Rear Admiral Robert Gilbeau — the highest-ranking US charged in the probe — pleaded guilty to lying about his relationship with GDMA.
Hong Kong customs seized the Terrex carriers as they were being shipped home from exercises in Taiwan.
Singapore’s have maintained long-standing if low-key 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 license, 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)