The Kaohsiung Prosecutors’ Office on Monday indicted a Chinese sea captain over his alleged involvement in the killing of four pirates at sea in 2012, while serving as the captain of a Taiwanese fishing vessel.
The suspect, identified by the media as 43-year-old Wang Fengyu (汪峰裕), was charged with homicide and breaches of the Controlling Guns, Ammunition and Knives Act (槍砲彈藥刀械管制條例), the indictment read.
Wang asked two Pakistani mercenaries that he hired as acting captain of the Kaohsiung-registered Ping Shin No. 101 to fire on and kill four suspected Somalian pirates in the Indian Ocean off the Somalian coast on Sept. 29, 2012, the indictment said.
Despite charging Wang with homicide, the prosecutors recommended that the court grant him leniency, as the alleged pirates opened fire on his vessel first.
Wang said he ordered that the four be shot so that they could not flee and ask other pirates to hijack his ship, prosecutors said.
In Taiwan, homicide carries a minimum 10-year sentence and is punishable by the death penalty.
Wang has been in custody since Aug. 22, when the latest ship under his charge, the Seychelles-flagged Indian Star, docked at the Port of Kaohsiung and he was arrested.
Wang was hired by a Kaohsiung company to serve as acting captain of the Ping Shin No. 101 in 2011, prosecutors said.
On Sept. 29, 2012, the vessel was operating in the Indian Ocean about 595km southeast of Mogadishu when a ship with four men fired on it, the Kaohsiung-registered Chun I No. 217 and two unidentified fishing boats, prosecutors said.
In retaliation, one of the ships rammed the pirate ship, capsizing it and throwing the four men into the sea, the prosecutors said.
The four had no way to defend themselves, but Wang instructed the mercenaries to shoot and kill them, they said.
The investigation was opened after a video clip of the fatal shooting circulated online in August 2014.
In it, a man believed to be the captain is heard giving orders in Chinese to the crew over a loudspeaker system as 40 bullets are fired at four unarmed men in the water. The shooters cannot be seen.
At the end, the victims are seen floating face down in the water, blood spreading outward, and those filming pose on the deck as their vessel continues on its course.
The Coast Guard Administration filed a report with the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors’ Office after the video went viral.
Although prosecutors tried to track down Wang, he never reported for questioning, so a warrant for his arrest was issued on Dec. 28, 2018.
Wang was quoted as admitting to prosecutors that he was involved in “tracking down pirates” and the shootings were done in “self-defense.”
Wang is a Chinese citizen and the incident occurred in the Indian Ocean, but he can be prosecuted in Taiwan, as it occurred on a Taiwanese vessel.
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