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‘Mitigating factors’ helped decision for lawsuit by Sanford

By Fili Sagapolutele PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Jan. 1, 2012) – The High Court has dismissed, without prejudice, the New Zealand based Sanford Limited lawsuit against the American Samoa Government (ASG), after both sides submitted mitigating factors. Specific details of the mitigating factors filings were not immediately clear.

Sanford had sued ASG for revoking the customs clearance that would have allowed the company’s fishing vessel, San Nikaunau, to depart the territory last month. The company argued that the Customs Division had no authority to keep the vessel here since it does not owe any outstanding debts to ASG, who disagrees saying it has full authority because of provisions which deal with federal customs law.

Earlier this month, a federal grand jury in Washington D.C. handed down a seven count federal indictment against Sanford for the alleged violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS), conspiracy and obstruction of justice. The charges are related to the San Nikaunau, detained in the territory since July by the U.S. Coast Guard, for possible pollution violation.

Two weeks ago, Sanford posted a $1 million bond with the U.S. government which allowed the vessel to be released from the local U.S. Coast Guard's jurisdiction.

The company said the bond was posted as security for any adjudicated potential fines or penalties for the offenses for which Sanford has been indicted, and for Sanford to make available certain crew as witnesses at hearings with respect to the indictments.

Sanford had pled not guilty to the charges, which it vowed to fight. The federal court in Washington D.C. has set a status conferencing hearing for Jan. 27.

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