35 crew men of US ship get five years jail

Tuticorin (TN): A court here today sentenced to five years rigorous imprisonment all the 35 crew members of US company-owned ship Seaman Guard Ohio which was held for illegally entering Indian territory with arms.

Judge Rajasekhar also imposed a fine of Rs 3,000 each on the crew members comprising 12 Indians, three Ukranians, six British and 14 Estonian nationals.

The crew, arrested on October 18, 2013 after their ship was intercepted by Indian Coast Guard off Tuticorin port, had been granted conditional bail by the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court in March, 2014.

The crew was arrested after the Coast Guard personnel found the ship carrying arms illegally in Indian waters off Tuticorin, a charge denied by the vessel authorities.

They faced charges under the Arms Act and Essential Commodities Act, which was invoked as the ship had allegedly bought diesel from a local agent in violation of law.

US firm AdvanFort International, which owns the ship, had been maintaining that the vessel was involved in anti-piracy operations and had not strayed into Indian waters.