Interpol to confirm fisherman's death

OYANG 77: A Korean-owned fishing boat at the centre of illegal fish dumping claims.
OYANG 77: A Korean-owned fishing boat at the centre of illegal fish dumping claims.

Interpol is investigating whether a South Korean fisherman charged with New Zealand fisheries breaches has been killed in China. 

The Ministry of Primary Industries, which is prosecuting Soon Ill Hwang, 42, a former factory manager on the trawler Oyang 77, has asked for the verification.

Hwang was reportedly killed in a car crash in China since charges of dumping barracouta, hoki, ling, and squid at sea were laid.

These species are subject to fisheries quota management.

The case came before Judge Brian Callaghan in Christchurch District Court today, three weeks after another judge ruled out continuing with the prosecution because of Hwang's death.

Prosecutor Chris Lange said today a death certificate had been obtained showing a slight difference in spelling but indicating Hwang had died in hospital from multiple-organ failure after a motor accident.

Lange said the ministry was still waiting for information from Interpol.

"It is, hopefully, not too far away but in my experience Interpol matters take a bit longer than we are accustomed to," he said.

The ministry wants the prosecution to go ahead because conviction could lead to forfeiture of the trawler.

It is also prosecuting the captain of the vessel, Dae Jun Lee, 39. 

Lee denies nine charges: failing to report the incidental catch of two basking sharks, failing to report the catching of squid, dumping squid, hoki, barracouta, and ling at sea, and making false fisheries returns relating to hoki, hake, and silver warehou.

The hearing on whether the case against Hwang can go ahead has been adjourned to a telephone conference on December 17, when the Interpol verification should be complete. 

The Press