JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia's navy has seized a fishing boat carrying 20 crewmembers, including 14 Indonesians believed to be trafficking victims who were forced to work for years without pay, officials said Monday.
Maritime and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti said a navy ship intercepted the STS-50 about 60 miles (95 kilometers) from Weh Island in Aceh province last Friday, a day after a tip from Interpol saying the vessel was heading to Indonesian waters.
Pudjiastuti said the boat was carrying six Russians, including the captain, and 14 Indonesians.
"The STS-50 has allegedly committed an organized transnational crime," Pudjiastuti said.
She said the boat is believed to have falsified its identity many times and used the flags of eight different countries, including Japan, South Korea, Sierra Leone, Cambodia and Micronesia, to facilitate illegal fishing in the waters of many nations.
The boat had earlier been seized by China but managed to escape, and was later captured in Mozambique's Port of Maputo before fleeing again, Pudjiastuti said.
Indonesian navy deputy chief Achmad Taufiqoerrochman said there are strong indications that the Indonesians on board are victims of trafficking who were forced to work at sea for years without pay.
"Suspicions of trafficking arose when we caught it without valid documents," Taufiqoerrochman said. "We are still investigating this case comprehensively."
He said the boat was equipped with 600 sets of gill nets, each about 50 meters (55 yards) long, that can sweep up to 30 square kilometers (12 square miles) of ocean.