November date for Sanford appeal decision

AP AND FAIRFAX REPORTERS
Last updated 12:21 16/08/2012

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Fishing company Sanford will decide in November whether to appeal a US conviction for dumping oil waste and falsifying records.

Speaking from Washington, managing director Eric Barratt said no decision could be made on any appeal until after sentencing on November 16.  

Questioned on the effect of the possible US$3m fine on the company's bottom line, he said that was the maximum penalty and repeated that discussion would have to wait until after the US court set a sentence.

"$3 million is a lot of money," Barratt said when asked how a payout of that size would affect the company's profits.

Before the trial, he told shareholders - including National Party president Peter Goodfellow who is also a director - that the firm "will vigorously defend these charges on various grounds.

Sanford's interim report, released in June, showed revenue for the six months to March 31 up slightly from a year earlier at $230m. The report said after tax profit for the period increased slightly to $13.3m (up on the $13.1m for the six months to March 31, 2011).

Earlier today, a US federal jury convicted Sanford for dumping oil waste into US waters outside American Samoa, and falsifying records. The company was found not guilty of one obstruction of justice charge.

The jury also convicted one of the company's employees of falsifying records.

US prosecutors said Sanford violated US law by dumping oil waste into the water without using pollution prevention equipment. They also said the company covered this up by falsely claiming such equipment had been used.

The oil waste, known as bilge waste, can be contaminated with oil, lubrication fluids and other liquids that leak from the ship's engines or pipes and hoses.

In a statement to NZX, where Sanford is listed, Barratt said the decision was naturally disappointing but that the case highlights "the need to work diligently to properly maintain the required logs and records regarding the management of oily wastes aboard vessels."

In pre-trial motions US District Court Judge Beryl Howell had heard claims that witnesses giving evidence against Sanford feared consequences.

The ship's engineer, Rolando Ong Vano, was initially charged with failing to keep an oil record book as required by law. In April this year he pleaded guilty to the charge and will be sentenced in September.

In a separate incident, an estimated four tonnes of oil was spilled into Timaru Harbour from a Sanford deep-sea fishing boat, the San Enterprise.

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