FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
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New Zealand Fishing Company Indicted
For Environmental Crimes and Obstruction of Justice
WASHINGTON – A federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., has returned a seven-count indictment charging Sanford Ltd. with violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS), conspiracy, and obstruction of justice, announced U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. and Assistant Attorney General Ignacia S. Moreno of the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
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 U.S. 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.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Frederick W. Yette of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia and Trial Attorney Kenneth E. Nelson of the Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice.