Hong Kong prosecutes captain, shipper in Singapore troop carriers case

HONG KONG, March 24 (Reuters) - Hong Kong authorities have

launched a prosecution against the captain of the ship and

shipping agent involved in transporting nine Singaporean

armoured vehicles seized in the city last November.

Hong Kong customs officers seized the Terrex troop carriers

as they were being shipped home from military exercises in

Taiwan.

Singapore's armed forces have maintained long-standing if

low key military training facilities in Taiwan, and Beijing

officials used the seizure to warn countries against security

ties with the island, which it regards as a breakaway province.

Master Pan Xuejun, 39, appeared in court on Friday charged

with one count of importing strategic commodities without a

necessary licence, the South China Morning reported.

The shipping company, APL, was also summoned and will appear

in court at a later date, the paper reported.

Pan was released on bail without entering a plea. He is due

to reappear in court on May 19.

APL has yet to comment.

Hong Kong Customs and Excise officials confirmed that they

launched prosecution cases against the shipping agent and the

ship's master on Wednesday.

"After a thorough investigation, the Customs and Excise

Department has sufficient evidence to prove a case in breach of

the strategic control system," a Customs statement said.

Hong Kong returned the carriers to Singapore on January 24,

with officials saying that the Singapore government would not be

criminally prosecuted.

The seizure came amid some broader signs of strains between

China and Singapore, which has deepened its security

relationship with the United States over recent years and

remains concerned over China's assertiveness in the disputed

South China Sea.

(Reporting by Venus Wu and Greg Torode; Editing by Simon

Cameron-Moore)