Two seamen from Cornwall have been found guilty of entering Senegal illegally after their converted warship was seized by marine commandos.
Skipper Chris Enmarch, 53, from Penryn, was handed a six-month suspended sentence, while Saltash man Andrew Bayliss, who crewed on the decommissioned Defender, received a one-month suspended jail term at Dakar Criminal Court in the West African country earlier this month.
Enmarch, an ex-Royal Navy submarine engineer, was also convicted for operating a vessel without a licence, failing to keep an official ship's log and illegal possession of a weapon.
The case attracted huge media interest in the African country when it emerged that the Defender was chartered by marine protection services company Prima Centurie, set up by the former head of Senegalese national police, Amadou Moustapha Sarr, which operates in the pirate infested Gulf of Guinea.
Sarr and two of his associates appeared in court on weapons charges but were acquitted.
Two other British crew members on the gunship, Christopher John Tracey and mechanic Alexander Eldson, also received one-month suspended sentences for entering Senegal without a permit.
Senegalese authorities said all four crew were ex-servicemen following their arrest on June 4.
Enmarch insisted he had travelled to Senegal with his formidable looking ex-Omani Navy ship to seek a contract to deter illegal fishing and his defence counsel pleaded for the Defender’s return.
But the 127ft fast attack gunboat was confiscated, ending its troubled journey from Pendennis Point, Falmouth, via Tenerife, where it was fined heavily and impounded under Spanish armed guard before absconding under the cover of darkness in late May.
Philip Astley, a former business partner of Enmarch, who was previously involved with West African shipping escort company Roguri International, told the West Briton the ships’ crew were “just ordinary guys not SAS or special forces”.
Astley added the crew “dressed in what looks like Royal Navy uniforms” and were “naïve” but not “mercenary”.
Enmarch told an Essex newspaper in 2011 that the British-built Defender would be manned by “hand-picked ex-Royal Marine commandos” in a mission “to deter pirates intent on boarding the many ships that pass the East African coastline”.