Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Liberia accuses second Dongwon vessel of illegal fishing

The Liberian government has released a statement refuting Dongwon Industries’ claim that it was the victim of fraud, and has revealed that a second Dongwon-operated vessel is under investigation for illegal fishing.

This new vessel, the Solevant, reportedly flagged to the Ivory Coast, is owned by French company Armement CMB et Compagnie but operated by Dongwon Industries, who bought it and changed the name from the Santa Maria.

The Solevant was tracked fishing inside the Liberian extended economic zone on three separate occasions in 2012, and had later provided a forged fishing license, a source told Undercurrent News.

Either the owners or Dongwon came forward with the desire of settling the case, and Liberia’s press release seems to support this, saying that Dongwon representatives had been to Liberia to negotiate settlements for both the Solevant and the Premier.

The statement released by Liberia refutes the claims made by Dongwon Industries that the Korean firm was a victim of fraud at the hands of the African country’s government.

Liberia’s government had accused a vessel owned by Dongwon Industries not just of fishing illegally in its waters, using a forged license, but of then forging documents with the intention of persuading other African nations it was entitled to fish in their waters too.

The South Korean company, which is the market leader in Korea’s canned tuna market and is also parent of Starkist in the US, responded to the allegations by claiming it had been the victim of fraud.

According to Dongwon, it had had its license application fee embezzled and was given a forged license by a member of the Liberian government who then disappeared.

In its latest statement, Liberia refutes this outright.

“The fishing license processes in Liberia are clear and publicly available”, the country said in its statement.

“Dongwon cannot demonstrate any legal agreement they had with a local agent to represent them, payment into government accounts for the license fee, nor can they provide any communication or document giving the vessels legal right to fish that has not been identified as a forgery by Liberia’s officials.”

The statement, signed by Bureau of National Fisheries coordinator William Boeh, goes on to express disappointment that Dongwon made these allegations even as its representatives were in Liberia, negotiating a settlement for both of the vessels’ illegal activities.

Source: Undercurrent News

Image courtesy of LuxTonerre via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)