A federal grand jury in Anchorage has indicted a corporate director, two corporate managers, a ship’s captain and a first engineer for their roles in an ocean pollution conspiracy involving the direct discharges of oil from a fleet of large, refrigerated cargo ships.
The indictment charges the individuals of conspiracy to lie to the US Coast Guard in order to conceal the dumping of waste oil from the ships and to obstruct the investigation of the agency and the grand jury.
The charges against In Seok Yang, a member of the Board of Directors of Boyang Maritime Kyeong Shin Deep Sea Fisheries Company of Pusan, Korea, are the first such charges to ever have been filed in the United States against a corporate board member for his role in a conspiracy involving vessel pollution.
The indictment also charges Gum Hyang Kwon and Young Min Han, two senior shore-side managers at Boyang in Korea, who are among the first on-shore mangers to be charged for their alleged roles in oil discharges that occurred at sea.
The United States also announced guilty pleas from Boyang Maritime, Boyang Limited, Trans-Ports International (TPI) and Oswego Limited, the maritime companies that operated, managed and controlled a fleet of more than a dozen cargo freighters at issue in this investigation.
The corporations pled guilty to being part of a wide-ranging conspiracy designed to hide routine discharges of oil sludge and oil contaminated bilge waste directly into the ocean from their fleet of ships since at least 1995.
The companies pled guilty to a 10-count felony, charging that they worked together to maintain false log books, obstruct justice and tamper with witnesses in order to avoid the expenditure of time, money and other resources that would have been required to comply with the laws designed to prevent oil pollution from ships.
If approved by the court, the defendants will pay a $5 million fine, institute and pay for a comprehensive court-monitored environmental compliance plan and serve five years on probation.
The companies are required to set aside an additional $500,000 in an escrow account as an initial funding for the cost of implementing the environmental plan.
One million dollars of the fine will be directed to go to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to be used for the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, an area that encompasses the Aleutian Islands.
‘These indictments and guilty pleas underscore the federal government’s resolve to prosecute polluters who use the oceans and shorelines as dumping grounds,’ said John Peter Suarez, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. ‘This Administration will not tolerate illegal behaviour that threatens the environment. We will take swift and appropriate actions against those who are responsible – whether they are on board or in the boardroom.’