10-20-99 USA: US CHARGES EIGHT OVER SMUGGLED CHINESE.

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Subject: 10-20-99 USA: US CHARGES EIGHT OVER SMUGGLED CHINESE.
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Fri Jan 01 1904 - 18:18:16 EST


10-20-99 USA: US CHARGES EIGHT OVER SMUGGLED CHINESE.
WHEN US authorities arrested the Pu Progress cargo ship in Long Beach on
behalf of her Singaporean owners, they did not expect to find that the
Chinese charterers were using her to smuggle 53 illegal immigrants, writes
Matthew Flynn.
Now this week, a mainland Chinese master and seven crew members have been
charged in the biggest US human smuggling case in half a decade.
Fifty-three mainland Chinese were found stuffed into the cargo holds and
ballast tank of the Pu Progress after the ship's owner had her arrested in
Long Beach to wrest her back from charterers who apparently had not made a
payment since May and had sublet the ship to another company.
According to a statement filed by the ship's owner, Pan-United, with the
Singapore stock exchange: "The vessel was unlawfully operated and crewed by
a company from the People's Republic of China," which sublet the ship from
a Chinese company to whom Pan United had chartered the ship.
The ship's owner Pan United of Singapore is pursuing legal action to regain
full control of the ship, but as yet, the names of the lead charterer or
subcharterer have not been revealed.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the US Coast Guard was alerted to the
case when it received a faxed message from the vessel's owner stating that
the charterers had not made any payments since May. The LA Times said that
when the Coast Guard located the vessel off the US coast, the master, Li
Shu Song, stated that he had engine problems and wanted permission enter
the Port of Long Beach.
Pan United then had the Pu Progress arrested in Los Angeles on October 3,
after the Chinese companies ignored the owner's demands to return the ship.
"Following the arrest, a routine inspection of the vessel by the US Coast
Guard and Immigration Department revealed the presence of 53 illegal
immigrants aboard the vessel," explained Pan United. Pending a final court
decision on the vessel, Pan United has been allowed to put its own crew
back on board.
Some immigrants were hidden in an empty ballast tank aft while others were
found in empty cargo compartments of a forward hold.
According to investigators, the immigrants paid up to $55,000 each to reach
the United States. Those charged with aiding illegal immigration face a
$250,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison.
(c) of Lloyd's of London Press Limited 1999.
LLOYD'S LIST 20/10/1999


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