Jury acquits master of all charges in illegal discharge case

Written by Nick Blenkey
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After spending more than 19 months detained in Lake Charles, La., the Russian master of a ship involved in an illegal discharge case is free and able to return to Russia following his complete acquittal by a jury on May 23, 2019.

As we reported earlier (see story), in February this year, Limassol, Cyprus, headquartered Interorient Marine Services Limited was fined $2 million and sentenced to four years probation after being convicted for maintaining false and incomplete records relating to the discharge of oil from the 50,250 dwt, Marshall Islands flagged tanker Ridgebury Alexandra Z.

The vessel’s captain, Vjaceslavs Birzakovs, was charged in a six-count indictment by a Grand Jury in the Western District of Louisiana on Nov. 29, 2018, alleging that he directed circumvention of the vessel’s pollution prevention equipment, falsified records, obstructed justice, made false statements, and conspired with other crew members to falsify the vessel’s Oil Record Book and to obstruct the U.S. Coast Guard’s enforcement of the law in conjunction with illegal discharges from the vessel.

Following a four-day trial before U.S. District Judge Jay C. Zainey in the Western District of Louisiana, Lafayette Division, Captain Birzakovs was acquitted on all charges following just two hours of  jury deliberations.

Captain Birzakovs was represented by Michael W. Magner, a partner at law firm Jones Walker, and T.C. Wicker, IV, an associate at the firm.

“I cooperated fully with the Coast Guard’s investigation and am very pleased but not at all surprised by the jury’s verdict,” Captain Birzakovs said. “I have always maintained my innocence and am grateful for the fair trial I received from the jury and Judge Zainey.”

“As a result of the fair treatment Captain Birzakovs received in the courts, he is now a believer in the American jury system,” said Mr. Magner. “We are glad that he was vindicated and can now return home to his family and his career.”

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