Sanford to 'vigorously defend' US charges over fishing vessel
BUSINESSDESK: NZX-listed fishing company Sanford says said it will “vigorously defend” seven US charges related to discharges from its vessel San Nikunau operating out of American Samoa and for obstruction of justice.
The Auckland-based company has retained New York based law firm Chalos O’Connor LLP and Washington DC-based Blank Rome LLP for the trial, which is due to begin on July 30 and run for about two weeks.
Executives including managing director Eric Barratt will give testimony in the Federal Court in Washington, Sanford said.
The case was brought by the by the US 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.
Criminal charges were filed in January 2012 alleging Sanford was vicariously liable for the failure of certain engine room crew members to properly maintain the vessel’s oil record book in connection with the management of oily wastes aboard the vessel.
The indictment also charges Sanford with vicarious liability for the alleged obstruction of the US Coast Guard investigation by one of the vessel’s crew.
If convicted, Sanford could face a fine of $US500,000 on each count. The indictment also seeks criminal forfeiture of more than $US24 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.
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.
Shares of Sanford fell 0.3% to $3.83 on the NZX and have dropped 6% this year.