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Ocean Polluters Face Big Fine After Guilty Plea

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A Greek shipping company will pay $650,000 in fines as part of a plea agreement for violating international and national oil pollution laws.

Dianik Bross Shipping SA and one of its chief engineers, Vassili Samoilenko, pleaded guilty to felony charges that occurred aboard the bulk carrier M/V Kostas N. The company and Samoilenko were accused of dumping oily waste and engine sludge overboard, falsifying the ship's oil record book, and even circumventing the carrier's pollution-prevention equipment, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said.

A whistle-blower aboard the M/V Kostas N alerted the U.S. Coast Guard to the violations by passing a note to an inspector during a routine inspection. A criminal investigation revealed that Samoilenko, 54, regularly allowed harmful discharges of oil, waste and sludge directly into the ocean, and did not enter the discharges into the Oil Record Book as required by national and international law.

U.S. District Judge James Ware ordered Dianik to pay a $500,000 fine and give $150,000 to environmental projects in the San Francisco Bay Area. Samoilenko, who pleaded guilty to two counts of obstructing justice, will serve three months of community confinement upon his immediate return to his residence in Estonia.

The whistle-blower who tipped off the Coast Guard will receive $250,000.

"Neither the government nor the public will tolerate flagrant violations of US laws," Environmental Protection Agency special agent Nick Torres said in a statement. "The oceans must be protected from companies that look to cut corners by dumping waste illegally."

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