….Seaman Guard Ohio Crew Sentenced to Five Years
A court in northern China sentenced a former vice minister of public security to 15 years in jail on Tuesday for accepting bribes, state media reported.
Li Dongsheng is the latest senior figure to fall in President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption crackdown that has targeted scores of high-level officials, including figures linked to China’s former state security chief, Zhou Yongkang. Zhou, the biggest tiger to fall, was once seen as a potent rival of Xi and was at the center of a vast patronage system from his various positions of power.
Li was sentenced by a court in Tianjin city, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Calls to the court rang unanswered.
Li helped others get benefits from 1996 to 2013 when he held positions including the vice minister in the Ministry of Public Security and the deputy head of state broadcaster China Central Television, Xinhua said.
He also demanded and received bribes worth 22 million yuan ($3.4 million) from 2008 to 2013, Xinhua said.
Despite having no experience in law enforcement, Li was elevated to vice public security minister in 2009, sparking rumors he was assisted by Zhou, who was sentenced to life in prison in June for corruption and other crimes.
In the meantime, an Indian court has sentenced members of US security company AdvanFort to five years of prison for carrying weapons aboard an anti-piracy ship in 2013.
The 35 sailors, including British, Estonian and Ukrainian nationals, of Seaman Guard Ohio were intercepted by Indian Coast Guard off the coast of Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu in October 2013. The group was arrested and charged for failing to present proper documentation necessary to carry weapons in Indian waters.
As of then, the majority of the crew were released on bail, aside from the ship’s captain and another officer, but had to remain in Chennnai.
The judgement comes on the heels of a decision of the Indian Madras High Court that quashed the charges.
AdvanFort claims that the ship was arrested while it was outside the Indian territorial sea and that the ship only aimed to refuel after the strong cyclone Phailin caused the vessel to be nearly out of fuel, also proving that all the firearms on board were legally purchased and properly documented.
The crew’s lawyers are said to be planning to appeal to the verdict.
According to Human Rights at Sea organization, the judgment appears to be a travesty of justice for the ordinary crew-members “who we understand were not aware of instructions being passed down from the employer, and who were otherwise simply doing their job.”
“It will now be for the instructed legal defence team to take a position, but we would expect an immediate appeal against these excessive concurrent sentences to the higher court,” the organization said.
Human Rights at Sea said it will be co-ordinating with other NGOs, civil society and UK Government departments to assure that support is provided to the families involved, as necessary.
“This case sends a stark warning in particular to the private maritime security industry and those who operate floating armouries in international waters, that the laws of foreign states must be known, briefed to the crew and respected as part of a voyage risk analysis and duty of care to all crewmembers,” the statement reads.
MSN with additional report from World Maritime News