Last-minute dash to grab casino ship cash

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 September, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 September, 1993, 12:00am

CREW and gaming management removed at least $10 million from casino safes on the New Orient Princess minutes before they fled the blazing ship last week, sources close to its agents said.

The money had been kept locked up far from the sauna at the stern of the 4,200-tonne ship where the fire started.

Sources close to agents Sovereign Superb Shipping said the money had been secreted away on the night by ''the right people', some of whom were rescued by police launches.

The money was now in ''the right hands'' even though many members of the 190 crew had returned to China.

Sovereign Superb managed the Panamanian-registered ship for a consortium of major Hong Kong gamblers, at least one of whom is being sought by police in connection with a failed forex exchange.

Accident investigator Captain Joseph Fox said he could not comment on the money, but confirmed the ship's captain and six other crew stayed on the vessel for more than five hours after police arrived.

Lawyers for Sovereign Superb have stalled Captain Fox's bid to examine the wrecked interior of the ship, now beached near Tseung Kwan O.

Captain Fox had no option but to accept lawyers' demands that he wait for one of Sovereign's experts from Singapore to inspect the still-smouldering ship.

''I'm not really going to argue, but I do want to get on this ship and have a good look around, if only to confirm what I've been told so far,'' Captain Fox said.

''I am hoping to get aboard on Monday.'' Lawyers for the ship yesterday gave him a statement from the sauna's cleaning woman, who said she had not used her keys to enter the sauna before the fire started.

The woman was one of only five people to have keys to the room, along with three sauna girls and the sauna's manager.