KUCHING: A boat skipper and two crewmen from Vietnam were discharged and acquitted Tuesday from a charge of illegal fishing after the court ruled the prosecution had failed to establish a prima facie case against them.
Sessions Court Judge Mohd Taufik Mohd @ Mohd Yusoff also ordered for the seized fishing vessel belonging to Nguyen Van Dai, Nguyen Phuoc Thuen, Ngo Hoai Hau, to be returned to them.
The judge also ordered the trio to be handed over to the Immigration Department for deportation, and that proceeds from the sale of diesel be returned to the rightful owner.
The defence team, comprising counsels Shankar Ram, Arthur Lee and Russell Lim, had argued that the Vietnamese fishermen were exercising their right to navigate in international waters.
The foreigners were intercepted by the authority about 51.7 nautical miles off the coast of Tanjung Sirik, and 43.9 nautical miles away from the Malaysia-Indonesia international maritime border, at 5.30am on March 24 last year.
They were charged under Section 15(1)(a) of the Fisheries Act 1985, which carries a fine of RM1 million for the owner of
the vessel, and RM100,000 for each crew member, upon conviction.
DPP Yong Ann Nee prosecuted.