Sentencing for black market pāua trader

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Media contact: MPI media team
Telephone: 029 894 0328

A Napier man and company have been sentenced for trading in black market pāua at Napier District Court today.

Giancarlo (Joe) Harold D’Esposito, 57, and Hawkes Bay Seafoods Limited admitted to illegally obtaining and selling black market pāua in November last year.

Mr D’Esposito was sentenced today to 10 months home detention and 200 hours community service. Hawkes Bay Seafoods Limited received a $27,600 fine.

Between September 2014 and August 2015, Mr D’Esposito paid cash to an MPI undercover officer for approximately 1,140kg of black market pāua with a wholesale commercial value of about $24,040, says Ministry for Primary Industries manager of compliance investigations, Gerry Anderson. 

“At the time, Mr D’Esposito was an owner and director of the Hawkes Bay Seafoods Limited group of companies in Napier.

“The amount of pāua involved, coupled with the fact that Mr D’Esposito, knew that his actions were illegal and took steps to conceal them, makes this serious offending. The offending spanned a period of 11 months and occurred on repeated occasions at the retail premises of a fishing company that Mr D’Esposito owned and directed.

“The rules are there for a reason. When people just take what they want it threatens the health and sustainability of our fisheries for future generations.

“We think this sentence sends a strong message that those who want to steal New Zealand’s precious kaimoana will be pursued and held to account.

“The investigation that led to this conviction was part of a larger compliance operation to combat black market seafood, codenamed River. This operation, which began in March 2014, has led to 18 convictions for people or associated entities on charges of trading in black market pāua and crayfish (rock lobster).

“The offenders received a range of sentences including prison, community detention, community work, significant fines, forfeiture of vehicles, vessels and cell phones, and one ban from all fishing activity. 

“This marks the final prosecution taken as part of Operation River. It’s taken almost 6 years of meticulous investigation and prosecution work to get to this point. We are proud of the efforts of the many fisheries officers, investigators and prosecutors who have worked to hold those responsible to account.

“We encourage anyone with information about poaching, or black market trade in seafood to contact us on 0800 47 62 24.

Mr D’Esposito and Hawkes Bay Seafoods Ltd have a history of fishing-related convictions. Last year Mr D’Esposito and Hawkes Bay Seafoods Limited received significant fines after pleading guilty to 15 charges of selling unreported fish. Mr D’Esposito was also fined after pleading guilty to a further 23 charges of misreporting on fisheries returns. This more recent offending occurred when Mr D’Esposito knew he was being prosecuted for previous offences.

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