A Chinese fishing boat captain who is suspected of ordering the killing of at least four men at sea in 2014 was on Saturday detained after entering the Port of Kaohsiung on a fishing boat.
The 43-year-old was arrested after the Seychelles-flagged Indian Star docked in the port at 8:50am, the Coast Guard Administration said.
Local media reports have said the man is surnamed Wang (汪), but the authorities did not release his name and only confirmed his nationality.
The man is suspected of being involved in the killing of at least four unarmed men, who were shot as they were drifting in the water, clinging to debris. It is not clear why the victims were in the water.
The incident came to light after a 10-minute video was uploaded on the Internet in August 2014.
In the video, a man believed to be a boat captain is heard giving directions to the crew as 40 rounds of ammunition are fired at the men in the water.
The voice of the supposed captain is heard as he allegedly directs the shooting. The man speaks in Mandarin with a mainland Chinese accent, while the crew members speak Vietnamese.
“In the front, to the left! What are you doing? In the front, to the left,” the man shouts in the recording. “Fire, fire, fire!”
After the shooting, bodies are seen floating face down as blood stains the water around them.
The video ends with the men who filmed the alleged killings from the deck of the boat posing for photographs as the vessel continues on its course.
The alleged shooters are not seen in the video, but a Taiwanese fishing vessel with the identification number BI-2353 is seen passing in the background just before the shooting starts.
The 725-tonne tuna longliner is registered to Tching Ye Fishery Co (春億漁業股份有限公司) in Kaohsiung.
The owner of the vessel, surnamed Lin (林), told foreign media at the time that he did not know if his ships were at the scene of the alleged shooting.
Lin also declined to reveal details about his vessel’s crew, but said there were private security guards on board, who were provided by a Sri Lankan company that he declined to name, foreign media reported.
The video was believed to have been uploaded on the Internet after it was discovered on a cellphone that was found in the back of a taxi in Fiji, the reports said.
International maritime safety groups and other experts analyzing the video suspected that the two ships — the one from which the shots were fired and the one seen passing by — might belong to the same owner, whose boats normally operate in pairs in the Indian Ocean.
However, efforts to obtain more information from Lin and the Fisheries Agency, which has information on the crew and locations of Taiwan-registered ships, have failed.
The Kaohsiung District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday declined to identify the boat or say whether the suspect had been working on a Taiwanese vessel at the time of the alleged shooting.
It is not uncommon for Taiwanese ship owners to hire Chinese captains to supervise mostly Southeast Asian crews.
After the video was uploaded to the Internet, there was speculation that the victims were Fijians, but an investigation by Fijian police found that they were not, Fijian media reported.
At that time, then-Fijian police commissioner Major General Ben Groenewald said their investigations found that the video was filmed outside of Fiji’s waters and involved a confrontation between an Asian fishing crew and pirates somewhere in the Indian Ocean, the Fijian Broadcasting Corp reported on Aug. 26, 2014.
Further investigations found that the video was first viewed in mid-2013, the report said.
However, Interpol, suspecting that a Taiwanese might have been involved, handed the case to Taiwanese criminal investigation units for investigation.
On Saturday, the Kaohsiung District Court ordered that Wang be detained, citing his suspected involvement in major offenses and the likelihood that he would attempt to flee the country.
The court also ordered that he be held in isolation in compliance with the nation’s COVID-19 prevention measures.
An investigation is ongoing, prosecutors said.
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