KUDAT: A team from the Kudat Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) has nabbed 16 Vietnamese fishermen and a boat skipper for allegedly breaking state and federal laws.
Kudat MMEA commander Boon Chin Chau said the men, aged between 20 and 44, were arrested five nautical miles from Pulau Tigabu during a special operation on Thursday (April 11).
Boon added that the team seized three boats, one of which is suspected to bear a cloned registration number plate.
"They broke multiple laws including not possessing valid identification documents, trespassing and not having port clearance from the Customs Department.
"There were two boats with the same registration number plate. We suspect that one of them is a Vietnamese vessel hiding under the guise of a local registration number plate and Malaysian flag to deceive the authorities.
"We believe that there are syndicates behind this crime. We will carry out a detailed and comprehensive investigation to track them down. We will not compromise when dealing with robbers of this country's sea resources.
"The seized items amounted to RM1.7mil," he said.
Boon said this was the fourth case intercepted by the Kudat MMEA that used the same modus operandi.
"The confiscated vessels and suspects were brought to the Kudat public jetty and handed over to the investigating officer. We will increase our patrols and enforcement from time to time to stamp out violation of our country's maritime laws," he added.
The case is being investigated under the Fisheries Act 1985, Immigration Act 1959/63, Customs Act 1967, Merchant Shipping Ordinance 1952 and Ports and Harbours Enactment 2002.