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Four more plead guilty to fish scam

FOUR Peterhead fishing skippers have pled guilty to a black fish scam uncovered as part of the same investigation carried out into the Shetland pelagic industry, which saw 17 skippers from Shetland and Fraserburgh ordered to pay back almost £3 million last month.

On Friday at the High Court in Edinburgh the four pled guilty to making false declarations for fish worth more than £8 million. Sentence has been deferred until 23 March.

The mackerel and herring were landed at Fresh Catch in Peterhead between 2002 and 2005 to evade their annual quota allocation.

The four accused, their vessels, and the amounts for their undeclared catches are:

• James Duthie, aged 54, master of the Sunbeam, who made 56 landings worth £1,936,546.13;
• Ian Buchan, aged 54, master of the Quantus, who made 49 landings worth £4,495,568;
• John MacLeod, aged 56, master of the Charisma and the Prowess, who made 43 landings worth £1,159,761.70; and
• Michael MacLeod, aged 33, master of the Charisma, who made landings worth £907,840.50.

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.”