A Malaysian court has sentenced the eight Indonesian pirates who hijacked the tanker Orkim Harmony to 15-18 years in jail. Five of the pirates will also receive five strokes of the cane.
Vietnamese authorities extradited the men to Malaysia early on November 26, and they were tried and sentenced by the end of the next day.
Local media reported that the men were not represented by counsel. All eight pled guilty.
In a reflection of the case’s high profile, an escort team of 40 armed personnel accompanied the pirates on their charter flight to Malaysia. Six prosecutors and the Indonesian ambassador attended the trial.
Noel Choong, head of the IMB ICC piracy reporting agency, told Channel News Asia that “we welcome the tough punishment. It will send a strong signal to potential pirates that crime does not pay."
The pirates boarded and took control of the Malaysian-owned product tanker Orkim Harmony on June 11, 2015, off Tanjung Sedili, Malaysia. The vessel and her 22 crew were ferrying $5 million worth of gasoline between Sungai Udang and Tanjun Gelang.
The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency conducted a sweep of an 8,000 square mile area to locate the Harmony, and after days of searching they found her far to the north, in Vietnamese waters. A Malaysian naval vessel shadowed the hijacked ship's movements and attempted to persuade the pirates to surrender. Instead, the attackers fled in the ship's rescue boat. They eventually washed up on a small island off Vietnam; on shore they claimed to be the survivors of an accident at sea, but local officials grew suspicious when they found large amounts of cash on the men.
One crewmember of the Harmony was shot in the leg, but the rest were unharmed. The vessel and her cargo were recovered.