Navy denies extortion claim to release ships

The Indonesian navy hasn’t requested or received money to release detained vessels or ship captains, a senior naval officer said, responding to a report quoting captains saying they were held by the navy in an extortion scheme.

Dozens of ships have been arrested by the Indonesian navy over the last year for illegally anchoring in its waters just east of Singapore, based on information from a dozen people involved in the cases, including captains, ship owners, intermediaries and insurers.

Most of the captains were freed after a few weeks once ship owners made unofficial payments to navy intermediaries of between US$300,000 (RM1.4mil) and US$400,000 (RM1.85mil), the people said.

Rear Admiral Arsyad Abdullah, the navy fleet commander for the region, said the navy had detained “about 20” ships over the last year for illegal anchorage but that the captains were either charged in court or the ships and captains were released following an investigation.

No payments were made or requested from ship owners by the navy or intermediaries, he said.

“The information that you heard is not true. We never asked for anything from the ships that were apprehended, we did everything based on the law,” Arsyad said, adding that an investigation into the allegations had been concluded.

The US embassy in Jakarta said it was aware of the ship detentions and payments being made to “parties claiming to represent the Indonesian Navy”.

Asked why he thought the US embassy, captains and ship owners said payments were being made to release ships, Arsyad said he believed it was part of a campaign against the Indonesian navy.

Two ship captains, American David Ledoux and Filipino Glenn Madoginog, said in television interviews that they were held for weeks on an Indonesian navy base last year while their ship owners negotiated with the navy for their release.

Madoginog, who was later found guilty by an Indonesian court of illegal anchorage and jailed for two months, said that at its peak he counted 27 captains being held in rooms at the naval base on Batam.

Arsyad denied the navy kept Madoginog or any other captains on the Batam base.

“We brought him to the naval base for investigation purposes,” he said. — Reuters

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