British captain of arms ship seeks gov't protection

August 26, 2009, 6:11pm

Somewhere in Bataan – The fugitive British captain of a cargo vessel seized by authorities for smuggling assault rifles worth P100 million into the country last week asked the government for protection, saying the syndicate behind the arms shipment is threatening him and his family.

Bruce Jones, 49, said he is willing to disclose what he knows about arms smuggling during an interview with the Manila Bulletin in forested areas between Zambales and Bataan.

Jones sought the help of this correspondent to air his side and clear his name before the eyes of the world, saying he was neither a terrorist nor member of an international gunrunning syndicate as alleged in reports coming out in the newspapers.

“I am not a terrorist and not capable of doing that,” he said.

Married to a Filipina and staying in the country for the last 14 years, Jones said he was a victim of the incident, adding that he has documents to support that the guns were legally acquired from P.T. Pindad with address at JI. Jend. Gatot Subroto, 517 Bandung, Indonesia.

“In fact, when they loaded the 20 wooden crates of guns into my ship, these were even supervised and guarded by around 50 policemen or soldiers from Indonesia. So I presumed it was all legally acquired,” he said.

He said he was instructed by his employer to deliver the guns to La Plata Trading, Inc. with office address at 14th floor, BDO Building, Paseo de Roxas, Makatiy City and was told that the cargo had been cleared by the Philippine National Police.

According to Jones, a total of 20 wooden crates full of guns were loaded into the ship from Indonesia. He said 19 of the boxes contained assault rifles and only one box contained 9mm pistols.

Authorities identified the rifles as Israeli-made Galils. However, a check by the Bulletin showed they were actually SSI-VI Pindad, made in Indonesia by a licensee of Fabrique National of Belgium. The guns are also of a different caliber than Galil.

When authorities seized the cargo vessel, only five wooden crates were intact and the 15 boxes of guns had been slipped out by the syndicate, he claimed.

He recalled that while in the high seas, he was instructed several times by the unidentified ship owner to slow down and delay his time of arrival in the Port of Batangas Port for unknown reasons.

“I had then felt that something is unusual. Worse, three of our tanks, containing 37 tons each, had been filled with water so I suggested to my boss to have a dry dock and repair in Subic,” Jones said.

According to him, the ship’s origin was Turkey, and along the way passed by Ghana and Congo for ship repair.

“This was my first time to handle the aging ship whose owner is still unknown to me, though he kept on calling me by phone only,” he said Jones.

After several days of delays, Jones said he had asked permission from the ship owner to leave the ship since his wife was about to give birth. Jones said the owner, and he was fetched from the ship by a yacht off Subic and was replaced by South African Lawrence John as captain.

However, Senior Supt. Manuel Gaerlan of the Firearms and Explosives Division in Camp Crame said the name of the consignee and the papers mentioned by Jones were all negative based on their records.

Jones said he was shocked to learn the following morning that the ship had been seized for gun smuggling at the Port of Mariveles.