Forensic accountants key to a six million pound ‘fish scam’ confiscation hearing
Illegal fish catches cost nearly fifty million pounds in lost revenue, according to forensic accountancy evidence being considered by the High Court in Edinburgh.
In a case that has become known as the ‘black fish’ scam, prosecutors are claiming that the company that helped quota dodging boat skippers land undeclared fish earned more than six million pounds overall in illegal profits.
Now, at a confiscation hearing, the Crown is arguing that the money should be handed over to the authorities.
In the long-running case, Shetland Catch Ltd admitted helping local skippers to defy quota rules between January 2002 and March 2005 but is fighting the confiscation action.
Counsel for the company, David Burns QC told the Court that the fish processing plant, the biggest of its type in Scotland and one of the largest in Europe, was a major employer in Shetland and was already struggling to cope with substantial debts.
Mr Burns said that the state had already got back some of the illegally made profits, in the form of corporation tax, adding that discovery of the scam meant fish quotas were drastically reduced, turning profits into losses in subsequent years.
He went on to say that: “It is not the case that the profits were being used to line the pockets of directors or shareholders.”
Mr Burns asked the Court to take into account the importance of the firm in the local economy.
Last December, fishing boat skippers agreed to hand over a total of almost three million pounds to settle confiscation demands in their cases.
In February, seventeen skippers and a Peterhead-based fish processing firm were fined a total of almost one million pounds for defying quota regulations.
The confiscation ruling by Judge Lord Turnbull in the case of Shetland Catch Ltd is due next month.
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