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Fishing Company Indicted For Environmental Crimes

09 December 2011, at 12:00am

NEW ZEALAND - A federal grand jury in Washington, DC, has returned a seven-count indictment charging Sanford Ltd with violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS), conspiracy, and obstruction of justice.

Sanford Ltd is a New Zealand based company that operates the Fishing Vessel (F/V) San Nikunau, a vessel that routinely delivers tuna to a cannery in American Samoa.

The indictment, returned in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, describes a conspiracy in which the crew of the vessel routinely discharged oily bilge waste from the vessel directly into the sea during its fishing voyages since at least 2007.

Sanford Ltd. was also charged with violating the APPS for failing to accurately maintain an oil record book for the vessel and with obstruction of justice for presenting false documents and for deceiving the Coast Guard during an inspection.

If convicted, Sanford Ltd. could be fined up to $500,000 per count, or twice the gross gain or loss that resulted from the criminal conduct. The indictment also seeks criminal forfeiture from Sanford Ltd. of more than $24 million for proceeds derived by Sanford Ltd. as a result of the criminal conduct.

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal laws and every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.

A press release from Sanford stated: "We have been conducting our own investigations in conjunction with our legal advisers since July 2011 when the US detained the San Nikunau in American Samoa. We will be vigorously defending all the charges and continuing our efforts with authorities in American Samoa to get the vessel released to enable it to return to fishing."

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