Taiwan’s Ministry of Defence has confirmed that the armoured vehicles seized by the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department does not belong to the taiwan military. From the pictures leaked on Facebook, it seems likely that the seized vehicles are Singapore designed AFV, Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicle, which is manufactured by Singapore Technologies Kinetics.
Reporting on the seized vehicles, The Straits Times said, “the armoured vehicles were being used by infantry troops who were undergoing their annual combat proficiency test, which is conducted by the Army Training Evaluation Centre, or Atec, in Hukou Camp in Hsinchu county, south-west of Taiwan.”
Singapore’s Ministry of Defence has not responded to the various media reports about the seizure.
Nine armoured vehicles were found in twelve of the seized containers. The containers were found on a cargo ship from Kaohsiung, Taiwan to Singapore and it was passing through Hong Kong. Hong Kong based investigative journalism news site Factwire was the first to report on the seizures.
Factiwire said pictures of the vehicles – covered in blue or grey wraps – could only be shot from air and that the vehicles were being guarded by at least two customs officers. It further said that one unwrapped vehicle was shared yesterday on a social media page for container terminal workers.
Citing sources close to the investigators, the news site claimed that the held the vehicles also contained explosives and that the items have been seized on suspicion of arms smuggling. The agency further reported that it is unclear why the shipment was unloaded at Hong Kong because there was no intention to do so.
There was no plan to offload or export the shipment when arriving in the Hong Kong terminals. The news site quoted sources saying that it was possible the containers carrying the military carriers were unloaded by mistake at the terminal with other general goods. Customs Officers quickly acted on a tip-off to launch an investigation, but no one has been arrested yet.
The identity of the owner, the content declaration, and the final destination of the shipment still remains unclear. A license is needed to ship strategic commodities like military equipment overseas. The maximum penalty for not having one is an unlimited fine and seven years in prison.
The seizures are said to be one of the biggest seizures of strategic commodities in two decades. The Hong Kong administration had previously confiscated military equipments which shipped through its ports.
UPDATE: MINDEF responded to the news with the following statement:
“On 23 November 2016, a shipment of Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICVs) and associated equipment, with no ammunition, used by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) for overseas training was delayed at Hong Kong’s Kwai Chung Container Terminal, due to a request for routine inspections by the Hong Kong Customs authorities.
“Singapore authorities are providing relevant assistance to the Hong Kong Customs and expect the shipment to return to Singapore expeditiously. The Terrex ICVs were used by the SAF in routine overseas training and shipped back via commercial means as with previous exercises.”