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Former Sanford engineer faces up to 26 years jail for obstruction

Tuesday 21st August 2012

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James Pogue, former chief engineer on Sanford's tuna vessel San Nikunau, faces up to 26 years in jail for obstruction of justice and knowingly failing to maintain an accurate oil record book, the US Department of Justice says.

Pogue, of Idaho, was chief engineer on the vessel between 2001 and 2010. He was convicted of failing to keep accurate records of how the vessel was managing bilge waste and falsely stating that pollution prevention equipment had been used when it hadn't.

Sanford was last week found guilty on six of seven counts relating to failure to properly maintain the San Nikunau's oil record book and the obstruction of port state control inspections by the US Coast Guard. The case stemmed from a Coast Guard investigation in American Samoa last year.

Each count carries a maximum penalty of US$500,000, meaning Sanford could be liable for fines of up to US$3 million. The company was found not guilty of one obstruction of justice charge and a forfeiture claim against Sanford for US$24 million of proceeds from the fish catch was withdrawn. Sentencing is set down for Nov. 16.

Sanford managing director Eric Barratt said the Auckland-based fishing company won't decide whether to appeal until after sentencing in November.

Another chief engineer who worked on the San Nikunau, Rolando Ong Vano of the Philippines, pleaded guilty to charges in the case and will be sentenced on Sept. 7, according to the statement posted on the Justice Department website.

"These verdicts hold a company and one of its chief engineers accountable for polluting the waters off American Samoa with oily waste, and then trying to cover up their acts," said US Attorney Ronald Machen.

The charges were brought by the US Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia and the US Department of Justice.

Sanford operates three large-scale freezer tuna purse seiners in the Pacific. The San Nikunau's catch was processed in Pago Pago.

Sanford shares last traded at $3.95 and have declined 4.4 percent this year.

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