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Sanford federal trial set in Washington D.C.

The federal court in Washington DC denied this week six separate motions by Sanford Limited, which seeks to dismiss federal charges against the New Zealand based company, whose fishing vessel San Nikunau is alleged to have been non-compliant with the federal Act of Pollution from Ships (APPS) while fishing in the waters of American Samoa for the past six years.

Sanford and a former chief engineer are also charged with obstruction of justice. The defendants have rejected the allegations and entered not guilty pleas to a federal indictment.

Earlier this week, US District Court Judge Beryl A. Howell presided over Sanford motions for dismissal citing, among other things, insufficient evidence. The most serious of the defendant’s motions is the one seeking to dismiss the entire indictment alleging “prosecutorial misconduct” by the US Justice Department.  After dismissing the defendant’s motions, Howell set trial to commence July 30.

Meanwhile, Howell ordered the taking of depositions of three current crew members of the San Nikunau, which is scheduled to sail out of New Zealand for international fishing destinations by the end of this month.

Sanford had sought court permission to take depositions of Larry Verbe Baguinben, Manual Gulliman and Moana Tai Eric Fredricsen, because they refused to travel to Washington DC to testify for their employer. These three are not charged in this case.

Sanford contends that statements by the three men will assist its defense to impeach testimonies of other former crew members, who will be witnesses for the government at trial.

Sanford said the men, who are foreign citizens, have refused to travel to the US to testify during trial even after the company offered to pay travel and accommodation expenses.

In separate declarations filed by Sanford in court, the men assert they did not commit nor observe illegal discharge of waste into the waters of American Samoa, during the vessel’s trips.

Additionally, Fredricsen who is the vessel’s first mate and navigator denied claims by the government that he was the individual that instructed crew members “in the galley on the vessel” and “during a ride to the Coast Guard office” in Pago Pago to make false statements to the Coast Guard during the course of the Coast Guard investigation.

Fredricsen also says these allegations are “not true” and that he “told no one to lie but rather to tell what they knew”.