Napier-based fishing industry giant Hawke's Bay Seafoods, directors, associated companies and at least one boat skipper have pleaded not guilty to almost 400 charges of fisheries regulation breaches.
The pleas were entered on their behalf by lawyers in Wellington District Court yesterday and the case adjourned for a case review hearing on January21.
The company faced 36 charges before Judge Peter Hobbs. Directors Nino and Joe D'Esposito face 94 and 96 charges respectively, and general manager Marcus D'Esposito faces 94 charges.
Linked companies Esplanade No3 Ltd and Ocean Enterprises Ltd also face multiple charges, and boat skipper Robert Harvey faces one charge.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Primary Industries said last night about 393 charges had been laid following major investigation Operation Marquise.
The investigation included a raid on Hawke's Bay Seafoods' premises at the corner of Pandora Rd and West Quay, Napier, on September 24 last year, involving a reported 88 officers from the MPI, Customs Service, Immigration NZ and police.
Linked to the inquiry were restraining orders on properties and vehicles under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act, limiting use, sale or disposal of the items pending the outcome.
All charges relate to alleged "significant" misreporting of commercial fishing catch under the Quota Management System between October 2012 and July last year and have been filed under the Fisheries Act, the MPI spokesman said.
Hawke's Bay Seafoods profiles itself as a vertically integrated company, from catch-to-plate, with more than 200 staff on boats and in factories, retail fish shops and offices, with exports to China, Japan and the Americas.