A sessions court in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu has sentenced 10 crew members and 25 security guards of the MV Seaman Guard Ohio, owned by the US maritime security company AdvanFort, to five years' rigorous imprisonment for flouting international maritime border laws and entering Indian waters without valid documents.
They will also be fined Rs 1,000 each. They have also been convicted under the Arms Act, for which they have been sentenced to two years in prison, and Rs 2,000 fine each. The two prison sentences will run together.
"All 35 people arrested from aboard the American ship have been sentenced to five-year imprisonment and asked to pay fine of Rs 3,000 each. Eight people charged with supplying diesel for the ship were acquitted," additional public prosecutor K Sivakumar told IANS.
The ship's crew included eight Indians and two Ukrainians, while there were six Britishers, 14 Estonians, one Ukrainian and four Indians among the security guards.
The ship had been taken into custody by the Indian Coast Guard in October 2013 after it was found sailing near the Tuticorin port with Sierra Leone's flag.
The authorities seized 35 firearms, 5,682 cartridges, 102 magazines, travel documents of the crew and logbook from the vessel, along with the ship itself.
The Tamil Nadu Police had alleged that the 1,500 litre fuel was illegally acquired for the vessel.
A 2014 Madras High Court ruling that freed the crew had been set aside after the Tamil Nadu Police appealed to the Supreme Court. The case was then heard at the Tuticorin sessions court on 11 January.
The sentenced convicts will be able to appeal the verdict in the Madras High Court within 30 days, reports Times of India.