Malaysia jails 8 Indonesians for hijacking oil tanker last year
Representational Image of an oil tanker Reuters

A Malaysian court sentenced eight Indonesians to between 15 and 18 years of jail for hijacking an oil tanker last year. Tanker MT Orkim Harmony was hijacked on July 11, 2015, as it travelled from Malaysia's western coast to the port of Kuantan on the east coast. The ship was carrying around 6,000 tonnes of petrol worth an estimated US$5.6 million when it was abducted by the eight-member gang.

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency said on Monday six of those pirates were jailed for 15 years and five strokes of the cane. But two other were given 18-year jail sentences. The agency said the Indonesians were charged on Sunday in the southern state of Johor, neighbouring Singapore and they pleaded guilty.

Noel Choong, the head of the International Maritime Bureau's Kuala Lumpur-based Piracy Reporting Center, said the shipping community hailed the punishment. "We welcome the tough punishment. It will send a strong signal to potential pirates that crime does not pay," Choong told AFP.

According to the Malaysian authorities, the eight suspects avoided the security forces by escaping from the oil tanker on a lifeboat under cover of darkness. Reports said an Indonesian sailor was injured by gunshot in his thigh, but the rest of the 22 crew members were mostly unharmed.

About a week after the hijack, the pirates washed up on the south western Tho Chu island of Vietnam by an accident at sea. Later, local officials found out that they were carrying huge amount of cash and were taken into custody. They were accused of hijacking the MT Orkim Harmony oil tanker.

After being held for almost 18 months by the Vietnamese authorities, the Indonesian hijackers were handed over to Malaysia early on Sunday.