The National- Wednesday, January 12, 2011
By VERONICA FRANCIS
A SHIPPING agent was charged yesterday and Custom officers questioned in relation to the illegal departure of the vesselUbt Fjord, which was alleged to have stolen crude oil from the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
The vessel was detained by PNG Customs Services and was under the state’s detention when it slipped away from Simpson Harbour in Rabaul during the earlier hours of Jan 8.
PNG Customs Commissioner, Gary Juffa told The National yesterday that the agent had committed various Customs offences, however, the main offence was rescuing of seized goods, failing to obtain clearance, evading duty payment and various other offences.
He said internal investigations were currently underway to determine whether there was neglect on the part of officers responsible for ensuring the security of the vessel and also if there was anyone corroborating with the owners or ship captain to assist in the vessel’s illegal departure.
Juffa said they had already advised the client’s lawyers to immediately advise their clients to return the stolen cargo which belonged to the people of PNG.
He confirmed that they had also advised Customs authorities in all countries to impound the vessel and detain the crew including the captain for failing to obtain clearance to rescuing the seized goods and
for escaping his criminal charges.
“This is yet another example of foreigners fleeing the country when granted bail. On many occasions Customs has sought custody while cases are pending and yet courts grant bail to foreigners who evade justice and leave,” he said.
It is understood Customs and police are investigating the matter, as the vessel is being pursued by a defence force patrol boat and intercept it before it crosses our borders.