Authorities in Mauritius say a prison break was foiled at the Petit-Verger Prison in Pointe Aux Sables and the 12 planners transferred to a different facility.
The alleged masterminds included Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar – the captain of MV Wakashio ship which went aground and spilled oil in Mauritius in July 2020.
Nandeshwar had been on remand after he was arrested following the spill and charged with endangering safe navigation.
The former ship captain was, however, transferred to Petit-Verger prison – which has been turned into a holding site for COVID-positive prisoners – after he tested positive for the virus.
He and 11 others had devised a plan to escape by removing some of the bars in two dormitory areas, but the plot was thwarted when a prison guard spotted the missing bars.
By the time the plot was unravelled, four of the prisoners had descended from their cell using ropes made from bedsheets. They, however, returned to their cells when they saw patrol officers coming in their direction.
The 37 occupants of the two dormitories at the prison were transferred to another facility immediately.
Nandeshwar’s case is of particular interest to Mauritius because of the vessel’s grounding, which is the country’s worst environmental disaster. The bulker ran aground off Mahebourg, Mauritius on July 25, 2020, spilling an estimated 1,000 tonnes of fuel oil into the pristine waters of an adjacent coral lagoon despite salvage and debunkering efforts.
Wave action hampered cleanup efforts and put additional stress on the ship’s hull, and she split into two about three weeks after going aground.
The bow section of the boat was towed away and sunk, and wreck-removal efforts for its stern began in February 2021.
Poor weather conditions during Mauritius’ winter season hampered this effort, and the stern section of the ship still remains at the site of the grounding.
Mauritius has launched a criminal investigation into the cause of the grounding. Nandeshwar and Chief Officer Tilakaratna Subodha were arrested shortly after the incident, and they were charged with endangering safe navigation in August 2020.
They have been detained in prison since their arrest without bail.
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