His Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar condemns an incident which took place on Monday night where Spain’s SVA attempted to take executive action in Gibraltar waters. The matter was immediately raised with the United Kingdom who have immediately confirmed they will be making a formal protest with Madrid given the seriousness of the issues that such an illegal action has raised.
The incident, once again, involves a Spanish Servicio de Vigilancia Aduanera vessel, in this case the Aguila 2.
Once again Spanish SVA officers have attempted to take executive action, within British waters outside of their internationally recognised jurisdiction.
The incident involved a chase of a Gibraltar registered vessel, the Ultimate Predator, within BGTW by the SVA.
HM Customs, later with the assistance of the GDP, were able to attend and assist the Gibraltar vessel and its crew.
One of the crew members of the Gibraltar vessel appears to have been illegally restrained by a Spanish operative who boarded their vessel despite lacking jurisdiction to take any action within Gibraltar or the internationally recognised British waters around it.
The other crew members of the Gibraltar vessel were taken aboard a HM Customs vessel whilst Gibraltar law enforcement searched the Ultimate Predator and liaised with the SVA.
The Ultimate Predator is a port tender vessel. HM Customs had identified it on radar as travelling without navigational lights and without its Automatic Identification System (AIS) flagging its location. This gave rise to suspicion by HM Customs who moved to identify the vessel. HM Customs is satisfied, having subsequently searched the Ultimate Predator, and having tracked its movements, that it had been carrying out a legitimate crew transfer to a merchant ship in BGTW and that its navigational lights and AIS had malfunctioned.
The Chief Minister of Gibraltar, the Hon Fabian Picardo KC, MP, said: “Incidents like this are an unacceptable reflection of the failure by Spanish law enforcement to recognise that the territorial limits of their jurisdiction does not extend to Gibraltar’s unquestionably British waters.
“The unfortunate failure of the navigational lights and AIS of a vessel can, rightly, give rise to suspicion on the part of law enforcement agencies patrolling BGTW. HM Customs was dealing with the matter.
“The engagement of a foreign law enforcement agency, however, without any communication or coordination with Gibraltar law enforcement, is illegal and unacceptable. The Spanish officers in question have potentially committed offences against Gibraltar law and I am asking that the matter must be forcefully raised with Spain.
“We want a future of greater cooperation and coordination, especially in the fight against crime. But that cannot come about or be ushered in by illegal actions such as those that have been reported overnight to have been taken by the SVA. They were out of their jurisdiction and they were acting illegally in restraining a person in Gibraltar without legal authority to do so. That is worse than unacceptable.
“I am pleased that the United Kingdom will be making its position clear to Spain on this incident. It does nothing to promote the cross-frontier relationships we have worked so hard to build. In fact, it does the opposite and tends to damage cooperation between law enforcement colleagues as well as creating even deeper suspicion in the wider population about the attitude of some sectors of Spanish law enforcement to Gibraltar.
“I commend the crews of the HM Customs and GDP vessels for their actions and their proportionate responses.”
NOTE TO EDITORS
The incident in question started at around 22:30hrs on 14 August, a Spanish state vessel of the Servicio de Vigilancia Aduanera took executive action in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters (BGTW).
The Ultimate Predator, a UK-flagged vessel was chased in BGTW by the SVA vessel, Aguila 2.
The Ultimate Predator was boarded by crew from the SVA vessel.
One of the crew of Ultimate Predator was physically restrained by an officer of the SVA.
HM Customs were on the scene at the same time as the SVA and also boarded the Ultimate Predator vessel at the same time as SVA.
Following discussions between the HM Customs officials and the SVA officers, the SVA officers withdrew from the vessel.
The Aguila 2 then exited BGTW at approximately 23:00hrs.
There were no reports of injuries or rubber bullets being fired during the incident.