World

Terrex vehicles set to return

Hong Kong will release SAF armoured carriers, says there could be prosecution

Hong Kong authorities will release the nine Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) armoured vehicles they had detained since last November.

Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Hong Kong's Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying yesterday replied to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's earlier letter to inform him that Hong Kong authorities had completed their investigations and "will be releasing the SAF Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles and other equipment to the Singapore Government" through the carrier.

"This is a positive outcome. Prime Minister Lee has replied to Chief Executive Leung to thank him for Hong Kong's cooperation in resolving this matter," the ministry said in a statement.

Hong Kong Customs had, on Nov 23, detained the nine Terrex vehicles and other equipment on board a container ship that was 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, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen told Parliament PM Lee had written to Mr Leung to request that the vehicles be returned.

CRIMINAL PROSECUTION

Yesterday, Hong Kong Commissioner of Customs and Excise Roy Tang said Hong Kong had completed its investigation of the suspected breach and there could be criminal prosecution.

He added: "Import, export and transshipment/transit of strategic commodities in breach of licensing requirement are criminal offences punishable under the Hong Kong law."

An APL spokesman told The Straits Times last night: "APL is working with the relevant authorities and various stakeholders to ship the vehicles and associated equipment that were detained in Hong Kong in November 2016, back to Singapore."

APL has shipped SAF military equipment since the 1990s, and November's incident was not the first time an APL vessel carrying Singapore-bound military equipment had transited in Hong Kong.

ST was informed earlier this month by a source with Hong Kong Customs that the shipment had been seized due to a lack of documentation.

APL, however, had declined to comment if it had the proper documentation required by the Hong Kong authorities.

No further details on when the vehicles will be released were available yesterday.

For more, read The Straits Times today.

hong kongSingapore Armed ForcesMINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS (MFA)