A Chinese captain of a cargo ship and his crew have pled guilty to attempted murder after throwing two terrified Tanzanian stowaways into a shark-infested ocean over fears of catching the coronavirus from them.
The crew assembled a raft out of plywood, plastic drums and rope, and set the pair of stowaways overboard near South Africa, all with the skipper, Cui Rongli, watching, according to the Daily Mail.
With two bottles of water each and a life jacket, the stowaways, Amiri Salamu, 20 and Hassani Rajabu, 30, were instructed to make their way to land using their hands as paddles.
The two men were given no food on the flimsy raft, which was dumped near the mouth of the Tugela River where great whites, hammerheads, tiger and bull sharks are known to hunt, but mercifully washed up on the Zinkwazi Beach near Durban three days later.
The pair were found by horrified locals and were sent to the hospital after suffering from hypothermia, thirst and hunger.
The African Maritime Safety Agency impounded the MV Top Grace when it docked at Richards Bay and the captain was arrested.
Rongli, along with crewmembers Lin Xinyong, Zou Yongxian, Tan Yian, Xie Wenbin, Xu Kun and Mu Yong all pled guilty to attempted murder at Durban Magistrates Court on Friday.
Rongli was fined over $5,000 and crew members were fined $2,500 in a plea bargain.
“The accused … provided the men with life jackets and the crew acted in a threatening manner banging the vessel’s decks as they descended into the raft,” National Police Authority spokesperson Natasha Cara told the paper.
“The ship pulled away leaving them once they were aboard the raft. The accused admitted that their actions could have resulted in serious injury and even the loss of life.”
Defense lawyer Willie Lombard countered, “There were many mitigating factors and if the crew had wanted to be cruel they could have dropped them in the high seas much further out without life jackets.”