A total of 21 Vietnamese citizens have pleaded guilty to illegal fishing in Malaysian waters. The group were caught without valid papers or fishing licenses, VN Express reported.

Charges of illegal fishing and using illegal vessels under the Malaysian Fisheries Act 1985 were served on the group.

Vessel captains are liable to a maximum fine of 1 million ringgit (US$238,525) and crew members 100,000 ringgit each (US$23,852) if convicted of illegal fishing.

Some of the fishermen were found to be using false identities.

The presiding judge for the case has set December 14 and 15 as the dates for arguments and sentencing.

According to the report, another group of 36 Vietnamese nationals have also been slapped with similar charges. Their trial sessions are scheduled for February and March 2019. All of the charged will remain in official custody until their trials.