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US firm claims vessel was not in Indian waters

PTI | Last Updated: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 - 20:16

Tuticorin: The company owning the seized US ship MV Seaman Guard Ohio on Wednesday told a court here that the vessel neither strayed into Indian waters nor was there any illegality in carrying arms and ammunition by it.

Opposing the plea for seven days police custody of three of the 35 arrested crew members, counsel for AdvanFort submitted before the Judicial Magistrate Court I that the vessel was off the Indian territorial waters when it was detained on October 12.

When the matter was taken up for hearing by Magistrate C Kathiravan, counsel Anshuman Tiwari argued that there was no need for further custodial interrogation crew members as the Q Branch police had already completed several rounds of questioning besides preliminary probe by the Indian Coast Guard.

Claiming that the US vessel was "very much off the Indian territorial waters", the counsel said there was no illegality, whatsoever, in regard to the "ship or the arms" which he contended was for anti-piracy and providing maritime security.

Countering the argument, the state government advocate said that the ship had strayed well into Indian waters. Also there was no proper documents, or permission for the vessel.

Magistrate Kathiravan adjourned the matter to tomorrow for further hearing.

Police had sought custody of two Indians -- Lalit Kumar Gurung, Radhesh Dhar Dwivedi-- and an UK national, Paul Towers for further interrogation.

Meanwhile, bail petitions have been filed before a sessions court here seeking release of all the 35 crew, arrested on October 18 on the charge of illegally carrying arms and purchasing diesel.

In another development, 22 foreign crew members of the ship were today shifted from Palayamkottai Central Prison in Tirunelveli to Chennai after they complained of poor living conditions in the jail. Ten Indian crew members continued to be lodged in the prison as also the three whose custody has been sought by the police.

In the Madras High Court Madurai Bench, a Chennai-based businessman, wanted by police for illegally supplying 1,500 litres of diesel to the ship, moved an anticipatory bail plea.

Petitioner Munithevan, who owns Vikaline Marine Engineering Pvt Ltd which provides human resources to Indian and foreign ships, submitted that he had supplied diesel only after seeking permission from the Assistant Director of Fisheries in Tuticorin after local agents approached him saying the ship was stranded in international waters for want of fuel.

He was not aware that the ship was loaded with arms or it was guilty of entering the Indian territory.

He said he had been informed that police had filed a case against him under Essential Commodities Act, Arms Act among others and apprehended arrested.

First Published: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 - 20:16

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