Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Manhunt on for ex-captain of ship with smuggled guns

CLARK FREEPORT, Pampanga, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) here said it has alerted ports throughout the country for a British national who mysteriously abandoned a Panamanian ship that was caught last Friday with 14 crates containing high-powered firearms off the coast of Mariveles in Bataan.

BI-Clark director Heranio Manalo said Briton Bruce Jones has been placed in the hold departure list following the seizure of the firearms and the arrest, upon the orders of
Immigration Commissioner Marcelino Libanan, of a South African, John Lawrence Burne, and his crew of 13 Georgian nationals aboard the Panamanian ship M/V Captain Ufuk.

Manalo said the crewmen of M/V Captain Ufuk, which entered the Philippines on Aug. 19, had no “seaman’s visas.”

Manalo said Jones was reported to be the ship’s captain but abandoned the vessel off Mariveles and replaced by Burne last Aug. 19.

Burne entered the country on Aug. 15 via the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and was admitted as a tourist only, he said.

Burne told immigration probers that he boarded a hotel vehicle on Aug. 19 and went straight to the Marina Yacht Club at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, where he took a yacht and proceeded to the M/V Captain Ufuk to replace Jones as captain.

The 2,400-ton Panamanian-registered ship yielded 14 crates of high-powered firearms.

Libanan has ordered a manhunt for Jones, who was also placed in the BI watchlist to prevent him from leaving the country, Manalo said.

Manalo said Burne and the 13 Georgian nationals, who the BI categorized as “restricted nationals,” were brought to the Immigration Detention Center at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City while deportation cases were being readied against them.

Manalo said they entered Philippine territorial waters without notifying the BI, Bureau of Customs and quarantine authorities, as part of standard procedures for incoming vessels.

Manalo identified the 13 Georgian nationals as Verdzadze Shalva, chief officer; Bejanidze Gocha, second officer; Shavishvili George, third officer; Lortkipphanidze Eduard, chief engineer; Malakmadze Tamaz, second engineer; Lortkiphanidze Temur, third engineer; Malakmadze Albert, boson; Bakhtadze Rodam, A/B; Diasamidze Gia, A/B; Makaradze Gia, A/B; Mskhaladze Damir, oiler; Pogosyan Valentin, oiler; and Makharadze Temuri, cook.

Manalo said the M/V Captain Ufuk came from Jakarta, Indonesia, its last port of call in Asia.

It came all the way from Turkey, Georgia, Gibraltar, Ghana, Cape Town in South Africa and Penang before proceeding to Jakarta and the Philippines.

Philippine authorities became suspicious after the vessel anchored at a close distance from the Port of Mariveles.

Libanan has also ordered all international seaports, airports and border-crossing stations to tighten the monitoring of arriving and departing foreigners to protect the country from terrorists.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is looking for the yacht that Jones boarded when he left the M/V Captain Ufuk.

PCG commandant Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo said they have information that some wooden crates from the ship, believed also containing firearms, were allegedly loaded on the yacht. – With Helen Flores

By Ding Cervantes - Philippine Star

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