After nearly seven hours of interrogation, the Q-branch police on Friday arrested 33 crew members and guards of American private security vessel MV Seaman Guard Ohio and remanded them in judicial custody for 14 days. They were sent to the Palayamkottai Central Jail.
The Q-branch brought the crew members to Muthayapuram police station around 8 am. Barricades were erected near the police station to prevent the entry of public. Later, a team comprising four doctors examined their health. Then, the police booked them under non-bailable sections of the Arms Act, Essential Commodities Act and Motor Spirit and High Speed Diesel Prevention of Malpractices in Supply and Distribution Order and produced them before
C Kathiravan, Judicial Magistrate Court I judge, at his residence. He remanded them in judicial custody.
Two crew members were retained in the ship for its maintenance. They would also be arrested after alternative arrangements are made for maintaining the vessel.
The ship’s guards comprised four Indians, 14 Estonians, six British nationals and one Ukrainian. Of the 10 crew members, eight were Indians, including one from Dindigul, and two from Ukraine.
The 35 rifles and 5,765 rounds of ammunition, seized from the ship on Thursday, were given for safe custody to the Central Industrial Security Force at the Thoothukudi Port.
Police sources claimed that an examination of the arsenal revealed that they are Self Loading Rifles (SLR), which has an accurate range of 1,500 metres. Such weapons would be used only by those trained in the army, they said.
However, many questions remained on the source of weapons. Even as security agencies in Kochi insisted the vessel was ‘clean’ when it berthed there from August 23 to 26, maritime experts said vessels with arms on board can’t enter territorial waters, unless they make a declaration on the same.
Meanwhile, security officials in Kochi, said they boarded the vessel twice and carried out detailed inspections.
Being a floating armoury, the possibility of weapons being loaded mid-sea can’t be ruled out.