U.S. Charges New Zealand Fishing Company Alleging Environmental Crimes and Obstruction of Justice

A New Zealand fishing company has been charged by the U.S. Department of Justice for violating environmental laws and obstruction of justice.  The case is the latest in a crackdown by the USCG targeting foreign vessels violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships law.

The seven-count indictment was handed down Tuesday to Sanford Ltd., a New Zealand based company that operates fishing vessels delivering to American Samoa.  Prosecutors allege that one of the company’s vessels, the F/V San Nikunau, routinely discharged oily bilge waste directly into the sea during since at least 2007, a direct violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships.  Investigators also allege the company failed to accurately maintain an oil record book and presented false documents to Coast Guard inspectors.

If convicted, Sanford Ltd. could be fined up to $500,000 per count.   The indictment also seeks payment of more than $24 million for proceeds the company made as a result of the criminal conduct.

The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and by the Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice.

In June, Greek ship operator Noka Shipping Company was found guilty of similar charges and was ordered to pay $900,000.

In February 2011, Cardiff Marine Inc., who owns the Liberian-flagged cargo ship, Capitola, was found guilty and sentence to pay $2.4 million for obstructing a Coast Guard examination and violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships in a “magic pipe” pollution case.  In that case, the Capitola’s chief engineer was sentenced to six month imprisonment for his role in the crime.

“The inspection and investigation is a responsibility that we share with other federal, state and local agencies and requires a commitment to environmental stewardship,” said Capt. Mark O’Malley of Coast Guard Sector Baltimore regaring the Capitola case. “The oceans are treasured public resources. The Coast Guard will continue to aggressively pursue and penalize polluters to reinforce that oceans are not dumping grounds or spillways for any entity.”