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Marine Log

July 15, 2006

More magic pipe indictments

The U.S. Department of Justice says that a grand jury in Delaware has returned a five-count indictment charging Chian Spirit Maritime Enterprises Inc. (Chian Spirit) and Venetico Marine and three individuals, Adrian Dragomere, Kristos Pagones, and Evangelos Madias, with conspiracy to commit environmental crimes and obstructing U.S. Coast Guard investigations related to the operation of the tanker vessel Irene E/M.

The Irene is owned and operated by Chian Spirit.

A fourth individual, Grigore Manolache, pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with representing false information to the U.S. Coast Guard.

According to the indictment, Dragomere was a licensed First Engineer, and at all times was responsible for managing and supervising the engine department, including compliance with laws regulating the discharge of oil from the ship.

Pagones was a technical supervisor for the Irene and Madias was the owner of defendant Venetico Marine and was responsible for the management and fiscal outlays to support the Irene's ongoing ocean shipping enterprise.

Engine room operations on board large oceangoing vessels such as the Irene generate large amounts of waste oil. International and U.S. law prohibit the discharge of waste oil without treatment by an oily water separator--a required pollution prevention device. Law also requires all overboard discharges be recorded in an oil record book, a required log which is regularly inspected by the Coast Guard.

The indictment alleges that on an unknown date, but including at least on or about October 3, 2005, and continuing through on or about December 10, 2005, the defendants and numerous subordinate officers and crew members of the Irene conspired to create and maintain a false Oil Record Book, in violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, and to knowingly impede and attempt to influence a vessel inspection by members of the U.S. Coast Guard.

The indictment further alleges that, as part of the conspiracy, Dragomere both discharged and ordered the discharge of untreated oily sludge and unprocessed bilge water directly into the ocean from the Irene through the use of a "magic pipe," which bypassed the oily water separator as much as four times per week.

Additionally, he failed to record or cause the recording of these discharges in the vessel's Oil Record Book.

Chian Spirit, Venetico Marine, Madias, Pagones, and Dragomere are alleged to have directed and encouraged members of Irene's crew to lie to the Coast Guard about the dumping of oily sludge and oil-contaminated bilge water into the sea and/or to conceal material facts about the system used to perform overboard discharges of oily sludge and bilge water.

Chian Spirit and Venetico Marine each face up to $2.5 million in criminal fines and five years probation.

Dragomere faces up to 15 years in prison, a potential fine of $750,000 and a special assessment of $300; and Madias and Pagones, each face up to 10 years in prison, a $500,000 fine and a special assessment of $200.

Manolache faces up to five years in prison, a potential fine, a special assessment of $100, and a term of probation up to five years.

An indictment contains only allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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