The offences, in contravention of sea fishing legislation, relate to a number of illegal landings of mackerel and herring at Peterhead between 2002 and 2005, when the vessel skippers falsely declared the quantity of fish they landed as a means of evading the annual fishing quota allocated to their vessel.
The four accused, their vessels, and the amounts for their undeclared catches are:
• James Duthie, born April 24, 1957- master of the Sunbeam- 56 landings worth £1,936,546.13.
• Ian Buchan, born March 13, 1957- master of the Quantus- 49 landings worth £4,495,568.
• John Macleod, born February 27,1955- master of the Charisma CY88 and the Prowess CY720- 43 landings worth £1,159,761.70.
• Michael Macleod, born November 4 1978, master of the Charisma CY88- 34 landings worth £907,840.50.
Sentence was deferred until March 23, 2012.
The landings were made at a fish factory in Peterhead.
Speaking after the court hearing, Lindsey Miller, Head of the Serious and Organised Crime Division, said:“This prosecution of these individuals follows the conviction of seventeen other individuals and two limited companies which operated fish factories, in 2010 and 2011 for similar offences, and is part of an extensive and complex investigation which is continuing into other fish landings.
“The successful prosecution of these additional accused is a further example of effective joint working between Grampian Police and Northern Constabulary, the Serious and Organised Crime Division of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, and Marine Scotland. We will continue working with police and other agencies to prosecute those individuals or organisations who flout the law for their personal gain.”
Detective Superintendent Gordon Gibson of Grampian Police, who led this investigation, said:"The pleas tendered today are another positive example of the hard work, dedication and partnership approach by all involved in this investigation."
Cephas Ralph, Head of Compliance at Marine Scotland said:”Marine Scotland is determined to secure a sustainable future for the sea fishing industry and the coastal communities they support. Illegal fishing is a crime committed against the marine environment and the many honest fishermen who abide by the regulations and fish responsibly."
The Crown today commenced confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime (Scotland) Act 1995 and the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 against the skippers. The Crown lodged prosecutor’s statements in accordance with the Proceeds of Crime Acts, seeking to recover the benefit made by the accused from the above offences. These proceedings will take several months to conclude and any amounts to be confiscated will require to be judicially determined.