Wednesday 7th December 2011 1 Comment
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Fishing company Sanford has been indicted on seven counts related to discharges from its vessel San Nikunau and for obstruction of justice, according to a statement from the US Department of Justice.
If convicted, Sanford could face a fine of US$500,000 on each count, according to the statement from assistant Attorney General Ignacia Moreno and US Attorney Ronald Machen.
The indictment also seeks criminal forfeiture of more than US$24 million “for proceeds derived from Sanford as a result of the criminal conduct.” The charges stem from an investigation by the US Coast Guard, which saw the vessel detained in American Samoa. NZX-listed Sanford has denied the charges.
Sanford’s crew had routinely discharged oily bilge waste directly into the sea during voyages since at least 2007, failed to accurately maintain an oil book record and obstructed justice by “presenting false documents and deceiving the Coast Guard during an inspection”, the charges allege.
The seven-count indictment was returned by a federal grand jury in Washington DC.
“We will be vigorously defending all the charges and continuing efforts with authorities in American Samoa to get the vessel released to enable it to return to fishing,” Sanford managing director Eric Barratt said in a statement.
The company has conducted its own investigation since the San Nikunau was first detained in July.
Sanford’s shares were up 0.7 percent to $4.29 in trading today and have declined about 8 percent this year.
The San Nikunau is one of three large-scale freezer tuna purse seiners operating in the Pacific. It targets skipjack tuna used for canning, which is typically unloaded and sold into one of the two canneries in Pago Pago, according to Sanford.
The San Nikunau is one of two Sanford vessels to be detained in American Samoa, with the San Nanumea held over injury claims from current and former crew, the company said last month.
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