Thursday 16th August 2012
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Sanford managing director Eric Barratt said the Auckland-based fishing company won't decide whether to appeal a guilty verdict in a US court of dumping oil waste in waters around American Samoa and falsifying records until after sentencing in November.
"Any decision on an appeal would only be made after sentencing," Barratt told BusinessDesk from Washington.
"The decision was naturally disappointing but the case highlights the need to work diligently to properly maintain the required logs and records regarding the management of oily wastes aboard vessels," he said.
Barratt had vowed to vigorously defend the charges brought by the US Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia and the US Department of Justice and appeared in person to give testimony.
Sanford was found guilty on six of seven counts relating to failure to properly maintain the tuna vessel 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 $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of justice charge and a forfeiture claim against Sanford for US$24 million of proceeds from the fish catch was withdrawn.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.
The San Nikunau had dumped oil from its bilges without taking steps to ensure it didn't cause pollution and later claimed pollution prevention equipment had been used, according to prosecutors.
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 $4 and have declined 2.2 percent this year.
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