(MENAFN- IANS) Kuala Lumpur, May 30 (IANS) Authorities in Malaysia said a Chinese vessel has been detained over suspicions that it looted two Second World War British shipwrecks.
In a report, the BBC said that the British Royal Navy had dispatched the battleships -- HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse -- to Singapore during the war to shore up the defence of Malaya.
They were sunk by Japanese torpedoes on December 10, 1941.
The strike had occurred just three days after the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on the US fleet in Pearl Harbour.
In a statement, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) said the Fuzhou-registered vessel was detained on Sunday for anchoring 20.1 nautical miles east of Tanjung Siang without permission.
The Chinese vessel failed to submit relevant documents required to anchor in Malaysian waters, the Agency said.
The ship was manned by 32-member male crew comprising 21 Chinese nationals, 10 Bangladeshs and a Malaysian.
Upon inspection, the Malaysian authorities found scrap metal and cannonballs "suspected to be from World War Two", the MMEA noted.
The MMEA added that it is linked to a cache of unexploded artillery, said to be from the two sunken vessels, that police seized from a private scrap yard in Johor state on May 19.
Old shipwrecks are targeted by scavengers for their rare low-background steel, also known as "pre-war steel", the BBC report said.
The low radiation in the steel makes it a rare and valuable resource for use in medical and scientific equipment.
The British vessels, on the bed of the ocean some 100 km off the east coast of Malaysia, had been targeted for decades.
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