An Italian shipping company has pleaded guilty in a federal court in Mobile, Ala., to a pollution-related charge and has agreed to pay a $1.3 million fine. The plea agreement came at the end of a day that was supposed to be the start of a criminal trial. The Bottiglieri Challenger’s chief engineer also worked out a plea bargain with prosecutors, as did another engineer. Both admitted their wrongdoing.
Giuseppe Bottiglieri, on behalf of his company, pleaded guilty to failure to maintain an accurate Oil Record Book. Under the agreement 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.
This is the second case in less than a year in which a foreign shipping firm has pleaded guilty in Mobile to offenses related to false logs concealing pollution in international waters. Target Ship Management pleaded guilty in May and agreed to pay $1.2 million in fines and payments. Under federal law, prosecutors did not have to prove that the pollution occurred with its knowledge — only that it was done by someone acting within the scope of his employment and for the intended benefit of the company. A transcript of a phone call between Bottiglieri and the ship’s captain on the morning after the vessel arrived in Mobile indicates that the company owner was upset and angry that the policies of the business had not been followed. He reportedly said: “I will send the chief engineer to prison, because he is a rascal and a rogue.” According to the transcript of the call, the Chief Engineer acknowledged that he had rigged a bypass on a pollution control system, but said it was done to save time, not to discharge oily waste.
Bottiglieri has acknowledged his company’s responsibility for his cargo ship pollution during a journey from Singapore to Brazil to the Port of Mobile. During that voyage, according to court records, senior engineers bypassed the vessel’s pollution control system six times to discharge oily waste directly into the sea. When the ship arrived in Mobile on Jan. 24, according to the plea agreement, crewmembers presented the Coast Guard with a false Oil Record Book that failed to note the discharges. The chief engineer was accused of ordering the discharges. Authorities contend that he rigged a so-called “magic pipe” to connect the purifier sludge tank with the bilge tank, bypassing a device called the oil water separator. Interestingly, Bottiglieri’s family has been in the shipping business since 1850.
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