Taiwanese vessel likely involved in killings at sea: prosecutor

08/24/2020 08:13 PM
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Image used for illustrative purposes only / Image taken from Pixabay
Image used for illustrative purposes only / Image taken from Pixabay

Taipei, Aug. 24 (CNA) The killing of at least four men at sea seen in a video that went viral in 2014 was likely done from a Taiwanese vessel, the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office said Monday, but it is hoping to learn more after detaining the ship's captain.

An ongoing investigation has found that the boat from which the shots came should be a Taiwanese-registered vessel, but more work is needed to confirm that, Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office spokeswoman Tseng Ching-ya (曾靖雅) told CNA.

Tseng said some information could be gathered from the acting captain of the vessel at the time, who was arrested when the Seychelles-flagged Indian Star docked in Kaohsiung at 8:50 a.m. Saturday, but it was not clear how forthcoming the individual will be.

"We can't exclude the possibility that the suspect will claim it was not a Taiwanese boat," Tseng said.

According to Taiwan media reports, the suspect is a 43-year-old Chinese citizen named Wang Fengyu (汪峰裕), but while local authorities confirmed his nationality, they did not release his name.

The case came to light after a 10-minute video was circulated on the internet in August 2014.

In it, a man believed to be the captain is heard giving directions in Mandarin with a mainland Chinese accent over a loudspeaker to the crew as 40 rounds of live ammunition are fired, picking off four or five unarmed men in the water. No images of the shooters are seen.

"In front, to the left! What are you doing? In the front, to the left!" the man screams in the recording. "Open fire, open fire, open fire!"

At the end, the victims are seen floating face down, their blood staining the blue water around them, and the group of men filming the shootings from the deck of the boat pose for photos as their vessel continues on its course.

The shootings have been investigated since 2014, when the Coast Guard Administration filed a report with the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office after the video went viral, Tseng said.

Prosecutors have spent some time tracking down the vessel, but the captain never reported for questioning, so a warrant for his arrest was issued on Dec. 28, 2018.

"Now that we have the captain, we have a more direct way of questioning him about the whole ordeal," Tseng said, who would not disclose the name and identification number of the vessel from which the shots were fired, saying the case was in the legal process.

The identity of the victims have also not yet been identified, Tseng said.

But the Fiji police commissioner at the time, Major General Ben Groenewald, said the victims were thought to be pirates after a confrontation with an Asian fishing crew, according to Fijian Broadcasting Corp. report on Aug. 26, 2014.

Fijian police were involved in the investigation because the video is thought to have been uploaded on the internet after it was discovered on a mobile phone that was found in the back of a taxi in Fiji, international media reported.

A press release issued by the Fisheries Agency on Aug. 22, 2014 also indicated the incident involved a failed piracy attempt, according to Greenpeace.

(By William Yen)

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