Defendant failed to surrender after indictment in illegal vessel pollution case
WASHINGTON – Prem Kumar, also known as Premakumaran Krishnan, a citizen of India, has been added to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) fugitive list for failing to surrender to federal law enforcement authorities after he was indicted for his role in an illegal ocean-going vessel wastewater discharge case. Illegally discharging 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.
“EPA is serious about enforcing the nation’s environmental laws and making sure that those who are charged with criminal violations are held accountable,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “The public can help EPA by reporting any information they have on the whereabouts of Mr. Kumar on EPA’s fugitive website or to local law enforcement.”
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 (APPS), 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. An indictment is an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
As the marine superintendent, Kumar was responsible for, among other things, ensuring that ships managed by Fleet Management operated in compliance with the APPS. His responsibilities included working with and directing the engine room officers in the management of oily waste water 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. Oily wastewater can only be legally discharged overboard if the wastes are first processed through the separator, which ensures that the water contains no more than 15 parts per million of oil.
A subsequent investigation by 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 pay $3 million in fines, four years probation and ordered to establish an environmental compliance program. Under the whistleblower provision of the APPS, the court awarded $200,000 to the crew member who brought the violations to the attention of the federal government.
Launched December 2008, 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. The website contains a form that the public can use to report information related to a fugitive’s identity and/or current location.
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. Of the seven former fugitives, five have been sentenced, one is awaiting sentencing, and one was found not guilty. With the addition of Prem Kumar, there are currently 17 fugitives on EPA’s fugitive list.
Since fugitives may be armed and dangerous, the public should not try to apprehend any of the individuals. Citizens may also report the information to their local police or, if outside the United States, to the nearest U.S. Embassy.