Chief Engineer Ioannis Prokakis and 2nd Engineer Antonios Boumpoutelos, both Greek citizens, along with their employer, Diana Shipping Services S.A., were judged guilty yesterday in a U.S. district court on charges related to the illegal discharge of waste oil and oil-contaminated waste water from the bulk carrier, M/V Thetis.
All the defendants were convicted of conspiracy, knowing failure to fully maintain an oil record book, falsification of records and concealing tangible objects in a federal investigation. In addition, Prokakis was also convicted of obstruction of justice for ordering crewmembers to lie to U.S. Coast Guard inspectors on board the ship. The guilty verdicts were handed down by U.S. District Judge Mark S. Davis of the Eastern District of Virginia.
Diana Shipping Services, S.A. faces a maximum fine of $5.5 million and five years of probation. Prokakis and Boumpoutelos face a maximum sentence of five years for the conspiracy conviction, six years per failure to maintain an oil record book conviction, and 20 years per falsification of record conviction. Prokakis faces an additional five year sentence for obstruction of justice.
Diana Shipping Services S.A., Prokakis, and Boumpoutelos, were indicted on May 22, 2013, in an 11-count superseding indictment alleging the illegal discharging of waste oil and oil-contaminated waste water in violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships. In September 2012, crewmembers of the M/V Thetis, a cargo vessel operated by Diana Shipping Services, reported that the vessel was discharging its bilge waste and sludge illegally by various means, including a “magic pipe” that bypassed the oily water separator.
Coast Guard inspectors boarded the vessel when it entered port in Norfolk and discovered the “magic pipe” and that the oily water separator was non-functioning. The inspectors were also presented with an oil record book that contained false entries made by the ship’s Chief Engineer, Ioannis Prokakis and the Second Engineer Antonios Boumpoutelos. During the inspection, Prokakis lied to inspectors about the “magic pipe” and told other members of the engineering crew to not disclose its existence to the Coast Guard inspectors.
“The pollution of our oceans, the falsification of environmental records, and lying to the U.S. Coast Guard are serious crimes,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Dreher. “Companies and individuals that intentionally attempt to cover up these crimes and obstruct U.S. Coast Guard investigations, will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
“These defendants not only violated the law when they illegally discharged contaminated waste into our waters, but then conspired to cover up their nefarious conduct,” said United States Attorney Neil H. MacBride. “Those who choose to continue to violate the law, even after being confronted, will find themselves in the same, serious trouble as these defendants.”
“The Coast Guard protects not only the environment of our nation, but the world’s,” said Capt. John Little, Commander of Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads. “Our Port State Control Teams board thousands of vessels annually to ensure compliance with U.S. law, regulations, and international treaties on pollution prevention. This case affirms the strength of our partnerships with the Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our Coast Guard Investigative Service in holding accountable those vessel operators who deliberately discharge oil and falsify ship records.”
“The oceans must be protected from shipping companies that cut corners and dump waste improperly,” said David G. McLeod, Jr., Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program for the Middle Atlantic States. “The defendants conspired to discharge oily waste from the M/V Thetis into the open water, falsified the ship’s record books and attempted to thwart the investigation. Today’s guilty verdict should send a clear message that our collaborative efforts will lead to the vigorous prosecution of those who despoil our oceans and violate our nation’s environmental laws.”
All three defendants will be sentenced on Nov. 8, 2013.