23rd February 2018
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Shetland pelagic fishermen ordered to pay back £1.7 million from illegal landings

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Shetland pelagic fishermen have been ordered to pay back £1.7 million in profits from illegal landings at the Shetland Catch factory in Lerwick.

But the 13 local men dealt with in the High Court in Edinburgh today will have to wait until 23rd January to learn what fines are to be imposed in addition to today’s confiscation orders. 

Shetland Catch, which has admitted helping the fishermen to give false landing information, has still to settle the question of confiscation.

The orders issued by Judge Lord Turnbull followed months of legal haggling about how much had been gained in illegal profits by seven Shetland boats and two from Fraserburgh which used the Lerwick factory.

In total the representatives of the nine boats were ordered today to pay back a total of more than £2.9 million.

The biggest repayment order made to a Shetland fisherman was to Serene skipper Bobby Polson, who must return £371,300. 

In total the Serene was hit with confiscation orders for £514,500 with Thomas Eunson facing £140,500 and Allen Anderson the smallest penalty of the day at £2,700.

But the Serene’s penalties were topped by those imposed on two skippers from the Fraserburgh-registered Enterprise, which totalled £766,900.

For the men from the other Shetland boats the confiscation orders totalled: Zephyr £356,600, Research £331,500, Antares £210,700, Charisma £140,900, Adenia £92,000 and Antarctic £53,300.

Speaking after the court hearings today the Solicitor General Lesley Thomson QC said: “In committing these offences all of the accused put their own financial gain first. Make no mistake these individuals were involved in significant organised criminality.”

She said the investigation into other landings was still continuing.

The prosecutions followed a major investigation which uncovered the so-called “black fish” racket in Shetland. 

Thousands of tonnes of mackerel and herring in excess of quotas were not declared when they were landed at what was then Europe’s biggest pelagic factory.

The offences were committed between January 2002 and March 2005.

Accountants were brought in to examine the books of eight processing factories in Scotland after fisheries protection officers became suspicious. They discovered that the figures did not add up for Shetland Catch.

In full, the confiscation orders imposed were: Robert Polson, 48, Serene, 371,300; John Irvine, 68, Zephyr, £236,000; William Williamson, 64, Research,£213,000; Laurence Irvine, 66, Antares, £210,700; David Hutchison, 66, Charisma, £140,900; Thomas Eunson, 56, Serene, £140,500; Allister Irvine, 63, Zephyr, £120,600; Gary Williamson, 52, Research, £118,500; George Andrew Henry, 60, Adenia, £51,300; John William Stewart, 56, Antarctic,£41,300; George Anderson, 55, Adenia, £40,700; Colin Leask, 38, Antarctic, £12,000; Allen Anderson, 55, Serene, £2,700.

All the Shetland men either live in or originate from Whalsay except Mr Henry, who is from Clousta.

The confiscation orders for four Fraserburgh boat skippers were: Hamish Slater, 52, Enterprise, £425,900; Victor Buschini, 51, Enterprise, £341,000; Alexander Masson, 65, Kings Cross, £283,000; Alexander Wiseman, 60, Kings Cross, £196,000.

Also at the same court, in a separate case, Alexander Buchan Limited, which formerly operated a fish processing factory in Peterhead, pled guilty to assisting vessel skippers in making false declarations of fish which had been landed at its factory premises between 2003 and 2005.

The company admitted it made £165,000 from selling the fish. The High Court ordered that sum to be confiscated from the company.

Grampian Police detective superintendent Gordon Gibson, who led the police investigation, said: “These have been extremely complex and lengthy investigations which have required many many months of meticulously detailed work by the officers concerned.

“This was criminality at an extremely high level and it reflects most favourably on the dedication of all the staff involved in these investigations.

“A clear message has also been sent out to those involved that they will not be allowed to profit from such criminality. I look forward to the sizeable sum which has been confiscated under the proceeds of crime being distributed to many worthwhile causes across our communities in Scotland.”

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