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Perpetrators of MV Wakashio oil spill get 20 months jail

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The Intermediate Court has sentenced the captain and first mate of the Japanese-owned ship, MV Wakashio, to 20 months prison each for their role in the country’s worst environmental disaster.

In her ruling on Monday, the magistrate declared that the two men, captain Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar and First Officer Hitihamillage Subodha Janendra Tilakaratna, had acted irresponsibly and did not respect their “navigational duties.”

The two men were found guilty of ‘endangering safe navigation’ on December 20, 2021, under section 217 (8) (j) of the Merchant Shipping Act 2007.

In July 2020, the Panamanian-flagged MV Wakashio, chartered by Mitsui OSK Lines Ltd, en route from Singapore to Brazil, ran aground between Blue Bay and Pointe D’Esny.

The ship was carrying about 3,800 tonnes of fuel oil along with diesel to power its engines.

One of its oil tanks, containing about 1,000 tonnes of fuel oil, ruptured after it ran aground, causing severe damage to mangroves, fish and other aquatic life.

Some scientists called the oil spill island’s worst ecological disaster.

Japanese experts had to work with local groups to remove oil from the Mahebourg Lagoon and the waters around the Isle aux Aigrettes wildlife sanctuary for over six months.

The captain, an Indian national, admitted to partying and consuming alcohol shortly before the accident. The two men were arrested and have been detained ever since (16 months).

Captain Nandeshwar’s lawyer, Mr. Gavin Glover, told Mauritian media that the ruling will set a precedent – “because the two defendants, even if they pleaded guilty, did not receive a remission of one-third of their sentence, generally granted to any defendant who admits the charges against him.

“The sentence is very harsh considering the crime that has been committed. It is extremely rare that the Court does not take into consideration the rules of remission during a ‘Plea of ​​Guilty’. This exception is the first that I see in 36 years of career.

“Many will rejoice at this award. But for other legal experts, this ‘u-turn’ of the judiciary opens the door to sentences where the principles of criminal rights acquired in this country will not be respected, ” he was quoted as telling Defi Media.

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