An abandoned mechanized boat, believed to have been used by people smugglers to illegally ferry Sri Lankan refugees to Australia, was reportedly seized by ‘Q’ Branch CID police off the Muttom Coast in Kanyakumari District in India, the New Indian Express reported.The boat was seized after the police had rounded up a few Sri Lankan refugees who had paid for the passage and had returned recently after encountering coastal patrol boats blocking their route, police sources said. The boat, said to be around 75 feet in length, had been stranded at Old Harbour in Muttom. It had been registered in Kerala but had been painted over by the smugglers with a fake registration number. Selvaganesh, one of the headmen at the Melmonavoor Refugee Camp told Express that two members of the camp had been taken to Nagercoil and Kanyakumari by the police, who wanted the men to pinpoint the exact location where the agents had launched the illegal ferry from. “They are now returning back to the camp as they had shown the boat to the Vellore Q branch officials,” he said. Selvaganesh told Express that the refugees had paid the agents Rs 90,000 per head for the dangerous trip across the Indian Ocean.Top Q-Branch officials however said that the rates vary depending on the agent. “They don’t have any fixed rates (to ferry the refugees). Instead, they make their demands based on what they think the families can afford and also based on the age and health of the people they are smuggling. For instance, in Pollachi, one person had paid Rs 10,000, while another had paid around Rs 1 lakh,” said the source. Officials also said that many Sri Lankan refugees who are found by the coast guard in Australia are sent to “processing” centers in the islands of Nauru and Papua New Guinea. “These migrants are held for very long periods of internment at these camps. The agents do not tell the refugees about these dangers. So, if caught, the agents will be booked for cheating, among other offenses,” the official added.Q Branch SP, S Maheshwaran, speaking to Express, said that the checks were part of routine procedure. “Some disused or abandoned boats have been checked. They have not been seized and we have not registered a case,” he said. (Colombo Gazette) The police had learned that nine refugees from the Vellore Melmonavoor Refugee Camp had been missing since June 19. The nine persons returned on June 23, and were questioned by Q Branch sleuths. During the course of their interrogation, it was learned that one of the four men arrested by the department recently in Pollachi, along with a few other “agents,” had received money from the nine refugees and had promised to ferry them to Australia. The people smugglers had planned to ferry the nine refugees from Kanyakumari, but were forced to turn back after encountering coastal security, just a few nautical miles off the Kanyakumari Coast. read more

AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email by Michael Kunzelman, The Associated Press Posted Jan 29, 2013 2:57 pm MDT NEW ORLEANS – A federal judge on Tuesday approved an agreement for BP PLC to plead guilty to manslaughter and other charges and pay a record $4 billion in criminal penalties for the company’s role in the 2010 rig explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance said the plea deal was “just punishment” considering the alternatives to the settlement, including the risk that a trial could result in a lower fine for BP.Before she ruled, Vance heard emotional testimony from relatives of 11 workers who died when BP’s blown-out Macondo well triggered an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and started the spill.“I’ve heard and I truly understand your feelings and the losses you suffered,” she said.Billy Anderson, whose 35-year-old son, Jason, of Midfield, Texas, died in the blast, recalled the trauma of watching the disaster play out on television.“These men suffered a horrendous death,” he said. “They were basically cremated alive and not at their choice.”BP agreed in November to plead guilty to charges involving the workers’ deaths and for lying to Congress about the size of the spill from its broken well, which spewed more than 200 million gallons of oil. Much of it ended up in the Gulf and soiled the shorelines of several states. The company could have withdrawn from the agreement if Vance had rejected it.BP America vice-president Luke Keller apologized to the relatives of the workers who died and for the spill’s environmental damage to the Gulf Coast.“BP knows there is nothing we can say to diminish their loss,” he said. “The lives lost and those forever changed will stay with us. We are truly sorry.”Courtney Kemp-Robertson, whose 27-year-old husband, Roy Wyatt Kemp, of Jonesville, La., died on the rig, said workers had referred to it as the “well from hell” before the explosion.“By cutting corners, they gambled with the lives of 126 crew members to save a few dollars,” she told the judge before turning to address Keller. “They gambled and you lost.”Vance told victims’ relatives who were in court that she read their “truly gut-wrenching” written statements and factored their words into her decision. She also said she believes BP executives should have personally apologized to family members long before Monday’s hearing.“I think BP should have done that out of basic humanity,” she said.The deal doesn’t resolve the federal government’s civil claims against BP. The company could pay billions more in penalties for environmental damage.Keith Jones, whose 28-year-old son, Gordon, died in the rig explosion, said $4 billion isn’t adequate punishment.“It is petty cash to BP,” he told Vance. “Their stock went up after this plea deal was announced.”BP separately agreed to a settlement with lawyers for Gulf Coast residents and businesses who claim the spill cost them money. BP estimates the deal with private attorneys will cost the company roughly $7.8 billion.For the criminal settlement, BP agreed to pay nearly $1.3 billion in fines. The largest previous corporate criminal penalty assessed by the Justice Department was a $1.2 billion fine against drug maker Pfizer in 2009.The criminal settlement also includes payments of nearly $2.4 billion to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and $350 million to the National Academy of Sciences.In a court filing before the hearing, attorneys for BP and the Justice Department argued that the plea agreement imposes “severe corporate punishment” and will deter BP and other deep-water drilling companies from allowing another disaster to occur.The Justice Department has reached a separate settlement with rig owner Transocean Ltd. that resolves the government’s civil and criminal claims over the Swiss-based company’s role in the disaster.Transocean agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanour charge of violating the Clean Water Act and pay $1.4 billion in civil and criminal penalties. U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo has scheduled a Feb. 14 hearing to decide whether to accept that criminal settlement. A different judge will decide whether to accept Transocean’s civil settlement.Many relatives of rig workers who died in the blast submitted written statements that were critical of BP’s deal. Vance, however, said she couldn’t get involved in plea negotiations and only could impose a sentence that adheres to the agreed-upon terms if she accepted it.Also killed were Aaron Dale “Bubba” Burkeen, 37, of Philadelphia, Miss.; Donald Clark, 49, of Newellton, La.; Stephen Ray Curtis, 40, of Georgetown, La.; Karl Kleppinger Jr., 38, of Natchez, Miss.; Keith Blair Manuel, 56, of Gonzales, La.; Dewey A. Revette, 48, of State Line, Miss.; Shane M. Roshto, 22, of Liberty, Miss.; and Adam Weise, 24, Yorktown, Texas.Four current or former BP employees have been indicted on separate criminal charges. BP rig supervisors Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine are charged with manslaughter, accused of repeatedly disregarding abnormal high-pressure readings that should have been glaring indications of trouble just before the blowout.David Rainey, BP’s former vice-president of exploration for the Gulf of Mexico, was charged with withholding information from Congress about the amount of oil that was gushing from the well.Former BP engineer Kurt Mix was charged with deleting text messages about the company’s spill response.A series of government investigations have blamed the April 20, 2010, blowout on time-saving, cost-cutting decisions by BP and its partners on the drilling project. Judge OKs BP’s guilty plea to manslaughter, $4B in oil spill penalties read more