The three Vietnamese Blue Boats Captains caught fishing illegally in Solomon Islands waters claim they are victims of human trafficking, the High Court heard yesterday.
Van Vi Do, Van Vi Von and Ngyen Nguyen were found guilty of stealing the country’s marine resources and entering the country illegally.
They are facing fines between $SBD100,000 to $12 million Solomon, or five years imprisonment.
Yesterday’s hearing was for sentencing submissions.
Their lawyer Douglas Hou said they were the victims of trafficking and asked the Court to be lenient with them.
Mr Hou said one of the men was even willing to testify under oath.
The Court heard the men allegedly came from very poor families with little money in Vietnam and were lured into the illegal fishing activity to try to earn some money.
Another revelation in Court yesterday, according to their lawyer, was that all the men who came on the three boats were equally in charge of the boats – they received the same pay for the same responsibilities.
Mr Hou said it was unfair for the three men to take the blame.
He said the real perpetrators were the boat owners.
The public solicitor added punishment for the owners would be to forfeit the boats to the state.
However Crown prosecutor Andrew Kelesi said that even if the men all shared the same responsibility of the boats, the issue was that the three men were in charge of the boats at the time of their arrest.
Mr Kelesi said the Court should also consider that they tried to escape from the police when they were sighted. He added, a lot of money was spent to capture them.
On the issue of trafficking, he said if the Court is taking that into account, then he would need time to do some research about it.
Chief Justice Sir Albert Palmer adjourned the case to Wednesday next week, to deliver the sentence.
The captains and their crew were caught fishing illegally in the Solomon Islands waters late March this year.