Nine armoured vehicles, wrapped in blue and grey covers and placed on container racks, were detained in a container terminal in Hong Kong on Nov 23, 2016, FactWire has discovered.
The armoured vehicles were surrounded by over 30 two-storey white shipping containers and 4-storey red shipping containers, only visible by aerial view. At least 2 customs officers were on guard, according to FactWire reporters who were deployed near the terminal.
Informed sources told FactWire that customs officers uncovered the armoured vehicles along with explosives when examining the containers at the Kwai Tsing Container Terminals yesterday (Nov 23). They suspected firearms smuggling activities and detained the prohibited items for further investigation.
Sources stated that twelve armoured vehicles were on a container ship setting off from Kaohsiung to Singapore and were passing by the Hong Kong borders. There were no intentions to unload the goods for transshipment or export and the ship was in transit at the container terminals in Hong Kong.
According to the Import and Export (Strategic Commodities) Regulations, armoured vehicles, tanks and other military armed vehicles are listed as strategic commodities. A licence issued by the Director-General of Trade and Industry is required for the import, export or transshipment of every shipment of strategic commodities. Any person who imports or exports any strategic commodities not under and in accordance with an import or export licence commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction, to a fine of $500,000 and to imprisonment for 2 years; on conviction on indictment, to an unlimited fine and to imprisonment for 7 years; and to mandatory forfeiture of all offending strategic commodities seized.
The Government of Singapore issued a statement this evening (Nov 24) confirming that “a shipment of Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICVs) and associated equipment used by the SAF for overseas training was delayed at Hong Kong’s Kwai Chung Container Terminal, due to a request for routine inspections by the Hong Kong Customs authorities. Singapore authorities are providing relevant assistance to the Hong Kong Customs and expect the shipment to return to Singapore expeditiously.”
Photos provided by citizens to media showed a blue license plate for military use on one of armoured vehicles, which was printed with “軍 X-15245”. The design of the license plate matches that of the vehicles of Taiwan’s military forces.
FactWire issued an enquiry to Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence on whether the armoured vehicles concerned belong to Taiwan’s Government and whether it was transported by the Government to Singapore. The spokesperson stated that the armoured vehicles are “not military materials of the Republic of China” and “the Ministry would make no further comment”.
However, military sources from Taiwan told FactWire that “since the case is very sensitive, we could not confirm anything at the moment. Explanations would be given after inspection. This case involves international affairs and is relatively more sensitive. (Reporter from FactWire: Do you fear the case would provoke Beijing?) We would deal with this case seriously and proper inspections would be done.”
Informed sources from the Kaohsiung Port admitted to FactWire that Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence would transport military materials to Singapore through the Kaohsiung Port and that “the Ministry would normally only inform relevant departments, not through regular import and export declarations but through more simplified procedures”.
FactWire reporters went to APL’s office in Kwun Tong this afternoon and tried to know more about the case. No one at the office was able to address FactWire’s enquiries.
In response to FactWire’s enquiries today, the Hong Kong Customs stated that the customs officers “discovered twelve containers suspected of containing controlled items during a routine inspection at the Kwai Tsing Container Terminals yesterday (23 Nov). The containers were found on a vessel from Taiwan bound for Singapore. Customs officers would take appropriate follow-up actions.”
Informed sources provided photos to FactWire yesterday evening (23 Nov), which showed that the nine confiscated vehicles are the Terrex AV-81 Infantry Carrier Vehicles. Jointly developed by Ireland and Singapore, the same prototype appeared during the Singapore National Day Parade 2015 which celebrated the nation’s 50th anniversary. The host of the parade stated that the terrex infantry carrier vehicle “provides infantry troopers with enhanced mobility, protection and fire power, enabling them to maneuver to the battlefield quickly and safely”.
Sources showed that the prototype was developed by Ireland-based Timoney Technology Limited and Singapore Technologies Kinetics Ltd.
Singapore and Taiwan had close military relations. An agreement was ratified in 1975 under which Taiwan’s military helps train SIngaporean troops in the “Starlight Exercise”. The Taiwanese media named the Singaporean troops that have over ten thousand soldiers as “Starlight Troops”. Soldiers who participate in the “Starlight Exercise” include the artillery and armoured force. However, as cooperations between the Singaporean and Chinese military forces increase in recent years, fewer Singaporean troops participate in the “Starlight Exercise”.
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