Phocea in the centre of alleged criminal activity

The superyacht Phocea in the centre of alleged criminal activity in  Vanuatu Image: BlooSee
Source: Vanuatu Daily PostReport – By Len Garae
Twenty Vanuatu police officers, headed by Acting Police Commissioner Arthur Caulton, boarded a super yacht in Port Vila Harbour at the weekend in what he described as a “pretty big operation” in which four people were arrested.
The skipper and a woman, a Tongan and a Samoan were arrested and a locally-owned truck was impounded.
It was a joint operation mounted by customs, immigration and quarantine officers.
The operation continued until 6pm on Sunday but the Acting Commissioner did not reveal the reason for the operation, saying it was connected to local political leaders, including a cabinet minister and a backbencher.
Her did not name anyone.
The Acting Commissioner said the woman on the yacht was detained for “obstructing police officers on duty”.
He said the yacht was going to be towed to the wharf by tug boat Roimata II but his men assured him they were satisfied with what they had had access to on board.
There was no need to bring the yacht in.
Alleged offences
The Police Media Unit named the yacht as Phocea and said it was suspected of being involved in smuggling high powered arms, money laundering and breaching maritime borders.
A police statement said: “A court warrant was issued and a search was conducted and numerous documents in relation to bilateral arrangement and the forging of signatures on official documents were confiscated.
“On board the yacht were 16 crew members including the captain and a Samoan and Tongan, who were involved in ta Vanuatu citizenship controversy in March. [The Tongan and Samoan] are now in the hands of the police.”
According to the statement, the yacht was travelling from Panama from Italy and via Tonga. The yacht’s next destination was Papua New Guinea.
The yacht was registered in Vanuatu in 2005 as a diplomatic yacht of Vanuatu owned by Anh Quan who became a citizen of Vanuatu in 2012.
Arms smuggling
Police information said people on the yacht were arrested for illegal arms smuggling earlier this year in Thailand on the way to Vietnam.
In the latest arrest, the skipper and a woman appeared along with the Tongan and Samoan in court but the outcome of the hearing was not available at time of going to press.
Police said investigations were continuing.
The 82m yacht Phocea and was built in France in 1976.

One comment

  1. ‘Me hear im say’ – ‘Latest local gossip’ is that some MP’s were seen on-board before the arrest and photographic evidence to the effect is now being held by the police. The captain was told by the Owner that all clearances had been done as he was a diplomatic consul – the application has been made but is yet to ratified and the government is now upset he is claiming this position when it is not approved – and this is why the captain and crew were arrested, for failing to clear Customs and Immigration.

    The house ashore which was being used by the owner his girlfriend and the crew was also raided and that is where the guns were found. The owner appears to have got wind of the arrest and fled the country shortly before hand.

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