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Sanford prohibited from publicly disclosing Tri Marine financial info related to San Nikunau

The federal court in Washington D.C. granted a “protective order” barring Sanford Limited from making public financial information that Tri Marine International had voluntarily turned over to the U.S. Justice Department as part of the federal government’s case against Sanford Limited.

Three former crew members from the fishing vessel San Nikunau are now seeking refuge in the U.S. for fear of retaliation.

(Samoa News should point out that there are no other details pertaining to Tri Marine or if it’s the same company that is setting up a tuna processing facility in Atu’u. Tri Marine, however, is involved in fisheries.)

The “protective order” issued late last week by U.S. District Court Judge was based on a federal prosecutor’s request, saying that on Jan. 26, Tri Marine voluntarily produced financial information that relates to the forfeiture allegation against Sanford Ltd, which is around $24 million — the amount the government alleges the company received through the San Nikunau when it unloaded fish in American Samoa.

Sanford is charged with violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS), conspiracy and obstruction of justice. The violation of the AAPS allegedly occurred on the San Nikunau while in the waters of American Samoa.

According to prosecutors, information provided by Tri Marine is necessary for Sanford Ltd. to prepare for trial; however, Tri Marine has expressed to the government a concern that the information “not be made publicly available because it is sensitive, competitive business information that must be protected from public release.”

Since Tri Marine is not a party in this matter, the federal government requests that the court prohibit Sanford Ltd. from disclosing the information to any other defendant, or any other person not involved in Sanford Ltd.’s defense, or otherwise not working under the direction and control of Sanford Ltd.’s counsel, absent further direction from this Court, said prosecutors.

U.S District Court Judge Beryl A. Howell, presiding over the Sanford case, last Friday granted prosecution’s motion and ordered that Sanford is “prohibited” from publicly disclosing the contents of Tri Marine’s records to any other defendant, or any other person not involved in Sanford’s defense, or otherwise not working under the direction and control of Sanford’s counsel, absent further authorization of the court.

In a separate oral order, Howell ordered the government to show cause by Feb. 10 as to why the “protective order” of Feb. 3, should not be modified to allow disclosure of the Tri Marine financial information to Sanford’s co-defendants James Pogue and defendant Rolando Ong Vano, who are senior crew members of the San Nikunau.

Meanwhile, three former crew members of the New Zealand based fishing vessel San Nikunau are seeking federal immigration approval to remain in the United States.  Rhyme Coronel Distor, Donate Eulatic and Silverio Distor are material witnesses for the prosecution, according to court filing late last month.

The three men were scheduled to have their depositions taken this week in Washington D.C., because the witnesses were planning to return to their native Philippines very soon.

However, a Washington D.C. immigration attorney, Grace M. Esnardo informed the Justice Department in a Jan. 25 letter that the three men do not want to return to their home country, because it would be extremely difficult to find a job with the same pay as fishermen.

Esnardo also wrote that the men wished to remain in the United Sates “because they are afraid of retaliation if they return to the San Nikunau.”

The three men are currently living in the U.S. on a public interest parole authority, which is set to terminate on Apr. 24 this year, wrote Esnardo, who is seeking assistance from the U.S. government in helping the material witnesses “obtain status that is more permanent” and/or help them adjust to permanent residency in the U.S.

Esnardo is seeking an “S Class” visa for each man to stay in the U.S. The “S Class” visa is for witnesses whose presence in the U.S. is critical to the success of a criminal investigation or prosecution.

Esnardo’s letter became public Jan. 27 when federal prosecutors filed new court documents in the Sanford case.