Italian shipowner to pay $1.3 million in pollution case

JULY 12, 2012 — In a plea deal reached yesterday in U.S. District Court in Mobile, Ala, Italian shipowner Giuseppe Bottiglieri pleaded guilty to pollution charges on behalf of Giuseppe Bottiglieri Shipping Company S.P.A., owner and operator of the Motor Vessel Bottiglieri Challenger.

The Mobile Press-Register reports that under the deal with prosecutors, the company will pay $1 million fine to the U.S. treasury and make a $300,000 community service payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

The newspaper says that the plea agreement came at the end of a day that was supposed to be the start of a criminal trial in federal court. That trial was set to begin today against the Bottiglieri Challenger's chief engineer, Vito La Forgia, unless his attorneys also work out a plea bargain.

The newspaper quotes George Chalos, an attorney for the company, as saying the firm had a good defense, but that Mr. Bottiglieri wanted to reach an amicable resolution.

"He doesn't want to fight the American government," Mr. Chalos said. "He's had very good cooperation with the U.S."

Under the original indictment filed in March, Giuseppe Bottiglieri Shipping Company S.P.A. and Mr. La Forgia were charged with the illegal dumping of waste oil and oil-contaminated waste water in violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS), conspiracy and two counts of obstruction of justice, the Department of Justice announced today.

According to the indictment, on or about January. 25, 2012, the Bottiglieri Challenger arrived in Mobile, Ala., and was boarded by Coast Guard officials who conducted an inspection to determine the vessel's compliance with U.S. and international law. The Coast Guard's inspection uncovered evidence that Giuseppe Bottiglieri Shipping Company, acting through its agents and employees and chief engineer Vito La Forgia, conspired to and failed to maintain an accurate oil record book that reflected all disposals of oil residue and discharges overboard, in violation of federal law.

Giuseppe Bottiglieri Shipping Company and Mr. La Forgia were also charged in the indictment with obstructing the Coast Guard's inspection by ordering that an illegal bypass pipe, also referred to as a "magic pipe," that was used to transfer oil-contaminated waste overboard, be removed prior the vessel's arrival in Mobile. The indictment further alleges that the shipping company and Mr. La Forgia obstructed the inspection by having one of the waste tanks rinsed out with sea water before reaching the port in Mobile.