A Vietnamese court today approved a Malaysian request for the extradition of eight Indonesians suspected of hijacking a Malaysian oil tanker more than a year ago, and rejected a similar request from Indonesia, state media reported.
The online newspaper VnExpress said the People’s Court in Hanoi agreed to send the suspects to Malaysia based on laws on mutual legal assistance and criminal procedure. It said the suspects have 15 days to appeal the ruling.
Court officials were not immediately available for comment.
The eight were arrested in June last year when they arrived on Tho Chu island off Vietnam’s southern coast and admitted that they had hijacked the oil tanker MT Orkim Harmony.
Vietnamese officials said at the time that the Indonesians, aged 19 to 61, initially said they encountered an accident at sea while fishing, but after questioning with information provided by Malaysian authorities, they confessed that they were responsible for the hijacking.
The ship was carrying 7.5 million liters of gasoline worth 21 million ringgit (USD 5.7 million) and was on its way to Kuantan in Malaysia when communication with it was lost. In the hijacking, 13 Indonesian pirates armed with pistols and machetes took control of the tanker.
Eight remained on board while the five others returned to Indonesia on their own boat, possibly to look for buyers of the gasoline.
The remaining pirates then abandoned the tanker and fled to Tho Chu island on a life raft.
The International Maritime Bureau said last year that attacks on small tankers off Southeast Asia’s coasts have been rising since 2014.