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Sanford files motion seeking specifics of alleged pollution violations

By Fili Sagapolutele PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Jan. 4, 2012) – New Zealand based Sanford Limited, whose fishing vessel was detained in Pago Pago last year for alleged pollution violation, has asked the federal court in Washington D.C. to order the U.S. government to provide specific details of the charges against the company.

The request, made through a "bill of particulars" motion, seeks to clarify the federal indictment handed down Dec. 6 by a federal grand jury in Washington D.C., charging Sanford with violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS), conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

Prosecutors allege a criminal conspiracy to violate the APPS on the San Nikunau, through the improper discharge of bilge waste, the failure to record these alleged discharges in the vessel’s oil record book and the allegedly fraudulent recording of the use of the vessel’s pollution control equipment in the oil record book when said equipment was allegedly not, in fact, used, said Sanford’s attorneys.

Sanford says the bill of particulars is required as the indictment fails to identify with sufficient particularity the nature of the charges pending against Sanford, thereby preventing Sanford from preparing for the hearing on depositions of material witnesses, which have been ordered to commence during the week of January 9, 2012, and to prepare for trial.

Furthermore, without a bill of particulars to clarify the vague allegations contained in the Indictment, the government will be able to improperly surprise Sanford by confirming its theory of the case to the evidence it presents at the depositions and at trial.

[PIR editor’s note: Sanford has consistently stood its ground and pleaded "not guilty" to the seven counts against them for pollution violations. US$1 million was spent to release the San Nikunau from detention by the U.S. Coast Guard, and while the High Court has dismissed the case against the American Samoa government, "mitigating factors" which were brought up in discussions last week have not been explained fully.]

"The Indictment in alleging a far ranging conspiracy, over a period of nearly five years in a remote part of the world, fails to identify the alleged members of the conspiracy, which alleged members committed or were involved in each of the overt acts charged, and the exact time, date and location when each of these alleged overt acts occurred," the defense argued.

Sanford also said that it needs this bill of particulars when three material witnesses — Silverio Distor, Rhyme Distor and Donato Eulatic — are due to have their depositions taken starting next week.

According to the defense these former crew members of the San Nikunau "are currently detained to the District of Columbia, and have been detained at the request of the U.S. government since August 2011."

Sanford says it is required to participate in these depositions and cross-examine these witnesses. Additionally, the bill of particulars is needed prior to Jan. 20, when pre trial motions are to be filed with the federal court.

In closing Sanford says it needs the identities of all co-conspirators; the acts allegedly committed by these co-conspirators; the substance, time, place, and date of each alleged false statement or statement that obstructed a Coast Guard proceeding (including the participants in those statements); and, a particularization of all alleged false entries, omissions and directions given to crew members.

Sanford is hoping for prosecution to provide a bill of particulars before the end of this week.

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