Friday, August 9, 2013

Conspiracy Convictions for Diana Shipping after Bulk Freight Ship Pollution of Ocean Waters

Long Jail Sentences and $5.5 Million Fine Possible after Company and Staff Collude and Lie to Coast Guard to Avoid Detection
Shipping News Feature

GREECE – US – Panamanian shipping corporation Diana Shipping Services has today been convicted of pollution and other charges related to the illegal discharge of waste oil and oil-contaminated waste water from the cargo vessel M/V Thetis, which is operated the company. Along with two of the vessel’s engineers, Ioannis Prokakis and Antonios Boumpoutelos, both citizens of Greece, all the defendants, both individuals and their employer, were convicted of conspiracy; knowing failure to fully maintain an oil record book; falsification of records and concealing tangible objects in a federal investigation. In addition, Prokakis was also convicted of obstruction of justice for ordering crewmembers to lie to US Coast Guard inspectors on board the ship. Acting Assistant Attorney General Dreher, commented:

“The pollution of our oceans, the falsification of environmental records, and lying to the US Coast Guard are serious crimes. Companies and individuals that intentionally attempt to cover up these crimes and obstruct US Coast Guard investigations will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Diana Shipping Services faces a maximum fine of $5.5 million and five years of probation. Prokakis and Boumpoutelos face a maximum sentence of five years for the conspiracy conviction, six years per failure to maintain an oil record book conviction, and 20 years per falsification of record conviction. Prokakis faces an additional five year sentence for obstruction of justice. All three defendants will be sentenced on November 8th. David McLeod, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program for the Middle Atlantic States, said:

“The oceans must be protected from shipping companies that cut corners and dump waste improperly. The defendants conspired to discharge oily waste from the Thetis into the open water, falsified the ship’s record books and attempted to thwart the investigation. Today's guilty verdict should send a clear message that our collaborative efforts will lead to the vigorous prosecution of those who despoil our oceans and violate our nation’s environmental laws.”

Diana Shipping Services, Prokakis, and Boumpoutelos, were indicted on May 22 of this year, in an 11-count superseding indictment alleging the illegal discharging of waste oil and oil-contaminated waste water in violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships. In September 2012, crew members of the Thetis reported that the vessel was discharging its bilge waste and sludge illegally by various means, including a ‘magic pipe’ that bypassed the oily water separator.

Coast Guard inspectors boarded the vessel when it entered port in Norfolk and discovered the ‘magic pipe’ and that the oily water separator was non-functioning. The inspectors were also presented with an oil record book that contained false entries made by the ship’s Chief Engineer, Prokakis and the Second Engineer Boumpoutelos. During the inspection, Prokakis lied to inspectors about the ‘magic pipe’ and told other members of the engineering crew to not disclose its existence to the Coast Guard inspectors. Capt. John Little, Commander of Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads, said:

“The Coast Guard protects not only the environment of our nation, but the world’s. Our Port State Control Teams board thousands of vessels annually to ensure compliance with US law, regulations, and international treaties on pollution prevention. This case affirms the strength of our partnerships with the Department of Justice, the US Attorney’s Office and our Coast Guard Investigative Service in holding accountable those vessel operators who deliberately discharge oil and falsify ship records.”

Photo: A view along the deck of the bulk carrier Thetis.