The Australian government lost its grip on the cargo shipping company Rena, which is accused of fraud, human trafficking and corruption in an offshore tax haven, the Australian Financial Review reported on Monday.
The government is now in the process of handing the company back to the Philippines, which had seized the ship from the owner.
The report said that while the former owner, a Malaysian businessman, is still in the country, Reina’s chief executive, Tan Sri J.T. Jalan, had fled the country to the US, while the ship’s owner, an Indonesian company, is now hiding in the Bahamas.
“There is an ongoing police operation to seize the vessel and to take it back to Singapore,” it said.
“But the Philippines’ refusal to return the ship to Singapore has resulted in an international legal and diplomatic standoff that has dragged on for months.”
“The Australian government’s refusal to relinquish control of Reina has resulted from the fact that the former Australian owner has fled to the United States, while its sole and undisputed owner has remained in the Philippines,” it added.
“The former Australian CEO and sole and unchallenged owner have no legal claim to the Reina ship.”
“But the Australian government will not relinquish its rights and interests in the ship.”
In a statement on Tuesday, the Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, said that the government was still working to return Reina to the Australian Commonwealth.
“The Commonwealth Government has been informed of this matter and is assisting with the repatriation of Rena,” she said.
“It is regrettable that this has taken longer than anticipated and the Government remains committed to making Reina a permanent home for Australians.”
“We remain committed to the Commonwealth’s goal of returning Reina as soon as possible,” she added.
“As soon as the Commonwealth has a better understanding of the situation and the arrangements that will be needed to return to Australia, the Government will be in a position to make a decision on the next steps.”
Ms Bishop did not give details of what steps the government might take.
The company has been in the Philippine jurisdiction since at least 2009, but its owner has been hiding in a number of countries.