FOUR pelagic skippers who had previously admitted landing ‘black fish’ were fined £155,000 at the High Court in Edinburgh today.
The offences, in contravention of sea fishing legislation, related to a number of illegal landings of mackerel and herring at Shetland Catch Ltd in Lerwick and Alexander Buchan Ltd in Peterhead between 2002 and 2005.
The skippers falsely declared the quantity of fish they landed as a means of evading the annual fishing quota allowed to their vessels.
At an earlier hearing on November 27 they were the subject of confiscation orders totalling £721,562.
Also at the same court Peterhead’s Fresh Catch, which had previously pled guilty to assisting other vessel skippers in making undeclared landings, was fined £160,000.
At the November hearing, Fresh Catch was the subject of a confiscation order for £500,000
Andrew Tait, master of the Chris Andra, Taits and Conquest was handed a confiscation order of £210,700 and fined £40,000.
William Whyte Tait, master of the Conquest, Taits and Challenge will pay back £140,030 and was fined £35,000.
Robert Tait, master of the Taits, Chris Andra and Conquest was given a confiscation order of £179,757 and fined £40,000.
Peter Tait, master of the Taits, Chris Andra, and Challenge pays back £191,075 and was given a fine of £40,000.
Speaking after the court hearing, Lindsey Miller, Head of the Serious and Organised Crime Division, and POCA Champion, said: “These cases today conclude “Operation Trawler”, the prosecutions that followed an extensive and complex investigation undertaken jointly by Grampian Police and Northern Constabulary under the direction of the Serious and Organised Crime Division of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, and with assistance from Marine Scotland.
“These accused may not have been involved in drug dealing or prostitution but make no mistake that they were involved in significant and serious organised criminality.
“In a clear example of successful working between the law enforcement agencies involved they have now been brought to justice and made to pay for their crimes.
“These prosecutions should send a clear message that there is no place in Scotland for those who want a lifestyle funded by crime of any kind.
“We will continue to work closely with law enforcement agencies to make this an increasingly hostile place for those who seek to benefit from unlawful activity and confiscate their cash and assets so they can be put to good use for the decent law abiding people in communities across Scotland.”
Detective Superintendent Gordon Gibson of Grampian Police, who led the police investigation, said: “The guilty pleas of these four men for landing undeclared fish and the similar plea of Fresh Catch Ltd for processing huge volumes of such fish now brings an end to the Operation Trawler investigation. On top of the sizeable fines of £155,000 handed out today to these men and this company, they now also have been forced to pay back over £1,200,000 under the proceeds of crime legislation.
“Having led this investigation for over fours years now, it has been extremely complex and is a prime example of how various agencies working closely together have been highly successful in bringing no less than 31 individuals and 3 large companies to justice.
“Fines totalling nearly £1.75million have been handed out by the courts and over £8,100,000 has been seized under the proceeds of crime over the course of this investigation and bear testament to my view.
“The greed shown by these men and the respective companies has been absolutely staggering, at a level never seen before in the UK and that should not be forgotten.”
Cephas Ralph, Head of Compliance at Marine Scotland said: “These decisions mark the end of a hugely complex seven year inquiry to uncover and bring to court the shameful and illegal activities of some of the most privileged individuals in the Scottish fishing industry.
“I would like to thank police colleagues and Marine Scotland staff for their tenacity and professionalism in bringing this series of prosecutions through to a conclusion.”