8 held in Vietnam admit to hijacking oil tanker

8 held in Vietnam admit to hijacking oil tanker
PHOTO: The Star/ANN

PETALING JAYA - The eight suspects arrested in Vietnamese waters near Tho Chu Island have confessed to hijacking Malaysian oil tanker MT Orkim Harmony.

Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) deputy director-general (operations) Maritime Vice-Admiral Datuk Ahmad Puzi Ab Kahar confirmed that the suspects, all Indonesians, came clean to Vietnamese authorities.

They were arrested after they reportedly fled the tanker on a rescue boat on Thursday.

News of their escape only came to light the next day when the tanker's captain contacted the KD Terengganu.

Aparently, he did not alert the Navy immediately as the hijackers had threatened to harm his family.

The tanker - owned by Magna Meridian Sdn Bhd and carrying 6,000 tonnes of petrol worth RM21mil belonging to Petronas - was missing since June 11 enroute from Malacca to Kuantan Port.

The vessel was then reported to be adrift in Cambodian waters and was being diverted to the east towards Natuna Island, Indonesia.

Authorities then confirmed that the MT Orkim Harmony had been repainted and renamed "Kim Harmon" by the pirates.

All crew members arrived safely in Kuantan on Saturday.

Admiral Ahmad Puzi said the MMEA had started the process to extradite the pirates from Vietnam.

The master and crew were being given counselling to overcome the trauma, he said.

The 22 crew members comprised 16 Malaysians, five Indonesians and a Myanmar national.

AFP, quoting Vietnam's state media, reported that the eight suspects were carrying large amounts of cash when they were nabbed.

VNExpress said the men - aged from 19 to 61 - spoke in Indonesian and "could not explain the origin of a big volume of foreign currency they were carrying and dozens of phones".

"These suspects were very stubborn, refusing to co-operate.

"They were professional and were very calm," Lieutenant Do Van Toan of Vietnam's marine police said.

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