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Environmental Enforcement: Boat Chief Added to EPA Fugitive List

Prem Kumar, also known as Premakumaran Krishnan, a citizen of India, has been added to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s fugitive list for failing to surrender to federal law enforcement authorities after he was indicted for his role in alleged dumping of untreated wastewater into the ocean.

Illegally discharging of wastewater into the ocean threatens aquatic life and can lead to fish kills, contamination of fish and shellfish, and may have long-term ecological effects, the EPA says.

Kumar and Fleet Management Ltd, a commercial ship management company based in Hong Kong, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Corpus Christi, Texas on April 29, 2010. Fleet Management was charged with one count of failing to maintain an accurate oil record book as required by the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, one count of making false statements, and one count of obstruction.

Kumar, who worked as a marine superintendent for the company, was charged in a four-count indictment with obstruction, conspiracy and making false statements. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The obstruction of justice charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

As the marine superintendent, Kumar was responsible for, among other things, ensuring that ships managed by Fleet Management operated in compliance with maritime pollution prevention laws. His responsibilities included working with and directing the engine room officers in the management of oily wastewater and other waste generated on board the vessel.

On October 6, 2009, the U.S. Coast Guard was conducting a routine inspection of the M/V Lowlands Sumida, a cargo ship being operated by Fleet Management, when a crew member provided information that the vessel was illegally discharging oily wastewater directly into the ocean by bypassing the oily water separator, a required pollution control device.

A subsequent investigation by the EPA, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality found that the vessel’s oil record book was knowingly falsified. Large commercial ships, like the M/V Lowlands Sumida, are required to maintain accurate oil record books to document that wastes are being property treated.

On September 9, 2010, Fleet Management Limited pleaded guilty and the company was sentenced in the Southern District of Texas to $3 million in fines and four years’ probation, and ordered to establish an environmental compliance program. Under the whistleblower provision of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, the court awarded $200,000 to the crewmember who brought the violations to the attention of the federal government.

“The public can help the EPA by reporting any information they have on the whereabouts of Mr. Kumar on the EPA’s fugitive website or to local law enforcement,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

The EPA’s fugitive list website contains information about individuals who have failed to turn themselves in after having been indicted and charged with or convicted of violating environmental laws. To date, information from citizens or law enforcement organizations have assisted in the arrest or capture of five fugitives and the surrender of two others

In November, the EPA announced that it has apprehended fugitive Albania DeLeon in the Dominican Republic. DeLeon had fled her federal sentencing hearing in 2009, and was wanted by the EPA for certifying individuals as having asbestos removal training when they never took the required course.

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