Update: Trial of Sanford Ltd FV San Nikunau begins today


The federal court in Washington D.C. has denied New Zealand based Sanford Limited’s motion to exclude evidence regarding the alleged monetary proceeds obtained by Sanford as a result of the offload of fish cargo from the fishing vessel San Nikunau at the Port of Pago Pago in American Samoa.

Sanford is charged under a seven-count indictment with violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS), conspiracy and obstruction of justice. The indictment also seeks criminal forfeiture from Sanford of more than $24 million for proceeds derived by Sanford as a result of the criminal conduct.

Jury selection in the Sanford case got underway yesterday morning and court records show a jury of 12 members and two alternates were selected and sworn in. The trial, which is expected to last two weeks, starts today and Sanford’s top executives told New Zealand news media the company will strongly defend the charges.

Sanford sought to exclude the money proceeds evidence from being presented in trial, arguing among other things, that the  admission of the amount of proceeds would be irrelevant under federal rules of evidence and unfairly prejudice the jury.

In a July 19,  24-page ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Beryl A. Howell says the court finds that evidence of monetary proceeds is generally relevant to motive in this case, and the danger of unfair prejudice is unlikely to result from the admission of such evidence.

However, the judge said the court holds that the government may only introduce evidence of monetary proceeds in support of an alternative fine under federal law to the extent, and only if, such evidence is necessary to establish or calculate the appropriate measure of gross gain derived from the charged offense, namely: money made which are additional before-tax profit to the defendants, that was proximately caused by the relevant conduct of the offense.

Last week Wednesday, the Justice Department filed a two-page notice saying that prosecution will not pursue an alternative fine and instead intends to prove proceeds of $24.04 million as evidence of motive by the defendant.

New Zealand news media reported yesterday that the San Nikunau is one of three large-scale freezer purse seiners operating in the Pacific. It targets skipjack tuna used for canning, which is typically unloaded and sold to one of the canneries in Pago Pago.


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