Malaysia detains Chinese ship suspected of looting British WWII wrecks | world news


A pre-war cannon grenade was found on the Chinese ship (Image: AFP)

A Chinese ship has been detained on suspicion of looting British WWII shipwrecks.

The Malaysian Maritime Authority suspects the bulk carrier looted two shipwrecks in the South China Sea that are believed to be war graves.

The wrecks of HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales are believed to have been targeted.

Both were sunk by Japanese torpedoes a few days after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, killing 842 sailors.

Britain’s National Museum of the Royal Navy said it was “dismayed and concerned at the apparent vandalism for personal gain”.

Fishermen and divers alerted authorities after spotting a foreign vessel in the area last month.

According to the Malaysian Maritime Administration, the ship, registered in Fuzhou, China, was detained for anchoring without a permit off the southern state of Johor.

On board they found a cannon grenade believed to date from World War II and believed to be linked to the police seizure of dozens of unexploded artillery pieces and other relics at a scrap yard in Johor.


The Chinese ship was detained (Image: MALAYSIAN MARITIME ENFORCEMENT/AFP via Getty Images)

Metal scrap and an old cannon shell are seen on a China-registered vessel after it was found by the MMEA in the waters of Eastern Johor was arrested. The Malaysian Maritime Authority said on Monday it had found a cannon shell believed to be from World War II on a China-registered ship and is investigating whether the barge was involved in the looting of two British warship wrecks in the South China Sea. (Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency via AP)

Scrap metal was also found (Image: AP)

A controlled explosion destroyed the weapons, believed to have come from British warships.

Officials from the Malaysian Heritage Authority will work with other authorities to identify the cannon shell.

Material from the two war graves, known as pre-war steel, is very valuable and could be used in the manufacture of scientific and medical equipment.

It’s not the first time the two shipwrecks have been targeted.

The New Straits Times reported that in 2015 foreign treasure hunters used homemade explosives to detonate the heavy steel plates on the ships, making the loot easier.

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Justin Scaccy

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