Criminal Case Continues Against Captain Schettino - Island of Giglio Requests Compensation of 80,000,000 Euros

Giglio Costa ConcordiaA court in Italy is proceeding with preliminary hearings to consider evidence whether Captain Francesco Schettino will face trial for criminal charges for his involvement in the Costa Concordia disaster. 

Schettino, labelled "Captain Calamity" in the press, appeared at the proceedings yesterday, faces a trial on charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship. 

The Italian prosecutors requested the indictment of four crew members in the case, including the ship's helmsman, as well as Costa employee Roberto Ferrarini, the head of Costa Crociere's "crisis unit" who is accused of delaying the evacuation of the cruise ships.

The island of Giglio, which is the site of the stricken vessel, has requested permission to sue Captain Schettino, alleging that the island's image as a beautiful tourist spot has been irreparably damaged by the disaster. The island's lawyers are seeking damages of 80 million euros.

The Costa Concordia remains in the water at the entrance to the island's harbor.  Image courtesy of Giglio News.

Costa Concordia Disaster Continues: Cruise Line Avoids Criminal Liability By Paying Fine of Only One Million Euros

Multiple news sources are reporting that the Italian prosecutors have agreed to drop all criminal charges against Costa Cruises arising out of the Concordia disaster in exchange for a fine of only one million Euro's.  

Just one million Euro's (around $1.31million) for killing 32 people, including children? What a pittance.

I'm sure Carnival-owned Costa is happy to write that check.  All of the big shot cruise executives and senior management officers who knew about the dangerous fly-by salutes can rest assured that they Costa Concordia - Criminal Fine - Italywill remain in their luxurious villas and not spend a second behind bars. 

The fine turns out to be less than $41,000 per dead passenger and dead crew member. Not much of a punishment. 

The deal does not release Captain Schettino of the criminal charges of manslaughter and abandoning ship. And the civil lawsuits in Italy, for what they are worth, are unaffected. 

Newspapers are saying that the the prosecution is satisfied with the fine because it was "close to the maximum allowed by law." So why wasn't it the maximum fine?  And what difference is a million Euro fine to a multi billion Euro corporation?  Isn't the ongoing publicity of a criminal trial and potential jail time against the real decision makers a better deterrent?

 

Photo Credit Giglio News. 

Manslaughter Investigation Underway Following Death of Costa Serena Crew Member

Chief Prosecutor Michele DiLecceEarlier this week, we reported on the death of a 47-year-old Indonesian crew member, identified as Sahid Bin Fauzi, who worked as a mechanic on the Costa Serena cruise ship. He died after falling into a ventilation duct of one of the ship's engines.

Today we learn that a criminal prosecutor in Genoa, Italy, where Costa is headquartered and where the cruise ship is flagged, has opened a criminal investigation into the incident.  An Italian newspaper reports that chief prosecutor Michele DiLecce has initiated an investigation under the theory that the death involved a case of involuntary manslaughter.   

The cruise ship was sailing between Buenos Aires, Argentina and Angra Ries, Brazil at the time of the crew member's death.

Criminal investigations of crew member deaths are unusual. It appears that there must be an indication of egregious conduct by the cruise line to prompt a criminal prosecutor to initiate such an investigation.

Are there any crew members out there with information to share?  

 

Photo credit: ilsecoloxix.it

CEO Micky Arison & Other Carnival Directors Named in Costa Concordia Criminal Complaint

Micky Arison Costa ConcordiaThe Week magazine in the U.K. reports that Italian lawyers are filing a criminal complaint against Carnival CEO Micky Arison as well as other American and British directors of Costa's dual listed parent companies, Carnival Corporation and Carnival PLC. 

The article written by Andrea Vogt, "Costa Concordia: UK Directors to be Named Responsible for Capsize," explains that lawyers for Costa Concordia victims allege that the Carnival directors "not only tolerated but promoted" the ship salute that led to the disaster in order to entertain the passengers and boost profits. 

Ms. Vogt explains that new evidence to be filed in the case alleges that criminal responsibility for the deadly wreck does not stop with Captain Schettino, "but goes all the way to the top."

The criminal complaint will be filed in Grosseto, Italy, by an Italian law firm in Milan.

It names 14 Carnival directors, including Sir John Parker, chairman of Anglo American plc and vice chairman of DP World Limited; Sir Jonathon Band, former First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff; Arnold Donald, president and CEO of the Executive Leadership Counsel; Debra Kelly-Ennis, former president and CEO of Diageo Canada; and Micky Arison, chief executive of Carnival. 

Arison was roundly criticized for trying to distance himself from the Concordia disaster.  He is photographed above standing in front of the Concordia with Costa CEO Foschi. 

Who's to Blame? Costa Concordia Criminal Hearing Begins in Italy

Today the hearing begins in Grosseto, Italy to determine who should be named as defendants in the criminal trial involving the deadly Costa Concordia disaster.

The potential defendants from the cruise ship include infamous Captain Schettino who was at the helm when he maneuvered the ship into the rocks, as well as the ship’s second-in-command, three officers who were on the bridge, and a safety official who falsely told the Italian Coast Guard the cruise ship merely experienced an electrical failure.  

Executives of Costa are also being investigated for their roles in the accident.

The international press is closely covering the hearing. Maritime and scientific experts are expected to Costa Concordia Cruise Shiptestify based on their review of "black box" data and other information. The Italian judge will review the expert's' findings and opinions to determine who should stand trial. 

Hundreds of survivors and their counsel are expected to attend, 

Costa's plan has been to dump all of the blame on its captain, which is easy to do given his conduct. But there remains concerns that the cruise line supplied out of date maps and poorly trained the crew. How all of this plays out should be interesting.

The fact that hearings like this and a trial will take place are rather remarkable events. Most maritime casualties involving cruise ships do not end up with trials like this. Lots of information has already been "leaked."  If the disaster involved a cruise ship flagged in places like the Bahamas or Panama, there would be no hearings or trials whatsoever. Those countries would certainly exonerate their cruise line masters who choose to register their ships in and pay fees to third world flag states for friendly treatment.

Italy - where the Concordia was flagged and Costa is based - should be applauded for the efficiency and professionalism demonstrated by the Italian court system so far.

 

Photo credit: CNN

Panama Opens Criminal Investigation Into Princess Cruises - Captain Perrin to Face Homicide & Failure to Rescue Inquiries

A reader of Cruise law News in Panama brought an article in the Panamanian newspaper Prensa, entitled "MP Abre Sumario a Capitán de Crucero" to my attention this morning.    

As I predicted last week, Panama has decided to proceed with a criminal investigation into the conduct of the Master of the Princess Cruises cruise ship Star Princess, for failing to assist three young Panamanian men who were adrift 100 miles out to sea aboard the Panamanian fishing boat Fifty Cents.  

Several passengers observed the fishing boat in distress and tried to convince the cruise ship to assist. Initial reports indicate that officers aboard claim that they were avoiding fishing nets and allegedly were thanked Princess Cruises - Star Princess - Panama Fifty Centsby the fishing boat. Princess Cruises later claimed that the captain of the cruise ship was never informed of the people in distress.     

The article explains that the Public Ministry (MP) of Panama launched an investigation into the deaths of two Panamanian fishermen, who went adrift in their fishing boat on February 24, 2012. 

The investigation was initiated by a Panamanian lawyer who filed a complaint on April 18, 2012. The aunt of one of the dead fishermen, Fernando Osorio, was quoted by a newspaper in Panama, My Diary, "I ask that you drop the full weight of the law" on the captain. She referred to her 16 year old nephew as a human being, not an animal to be left in the sea.

The General Secretariat of the MP referred the investigation to the Homicide Division of the Judicial Investigation Department.

Last week, I wrote about the duties owed to persons in distress at sea and the rights of the cruise ship flag state, Bermuda, and the  government of Panama to pursue criminal charges: Duty of Cruise Lines to Assist Persons In Distress: Moral, Legal & Practical Considerations On The High Seas

My prediction?  Bermuda will do a favor for its cruise line customer, Princess Cruises, and exonerate Captain Perrin. Panama will issue an arrest warrant for the captain and a writ of attachment to seize the next Princess cruise ship sailing through the Panama Canal . . .    

 

Read our first article about this case: Two Dead Fishermen: Did Star Princess Cruise Ship Ignore Mariners in Distress?

Photo credit: MY DIARY | Roca Gonzalez Edilsa

What Happens to Cruise Ship Criminals? Not Much . . .

"Naked Law" by AVVO recently published an interesting article "What Happens to Cruise Ship Criminals?"

The article poses the following scenario: 

"A group of young women take a seven-day cruise to the Caribbean, a trip they’ve been planning for months.  The second night on board, they have a couple of drinks in one of the ship’s many lounges and bars.  The bartender is attractive and flirty.

Later that night, he rapes one of the women in her cabin—something he’s done before because he always gets away with it.  He knows full well that cruise companies generally do whatever it takes to cover up shipboard crimes.  By the time his victim gets to port, it’s too late to get any real evidence, plus the maid steam-cleaned the DNA off the cabin carpet."

TIME Magazine - Crime Rocks the Boats - Cruise Ship CrimeThe problem with this hypothetical scenario is that it is not hypothetical at all.  We have represented passengers who have been raped by bartenders, cabin attendants and even security guards on cruise ships.

The article mentions two of our client's cases and also refers to an article by Cruise Law News. 

First cited is an article by Julie Rowe in TIME Magazine entitled "Crime Rocks the Boats" which discussed the case of firm client Janet Kelley and the disappearance of George Smith during his honeymoon cruise with firm client Jennifer Hagel.  TIME published its blockbuster article in March 2006 while Congress was convening its second (of five) hearings on the problem of cruise ship crime.  It would not be until 2010 that Congress passed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act which requires cruise ships to report shipboard crimes to the FBI and U.S. Coast Guard and to maintain rape kits aboard the ships.  

AVVO also cited our article Cruise Ships Are A Perfect Place to Commit A Crime, And Get Away With It! in which we discuss the disturbing cases of passengers James Scavonne (Carnival), Dianne Brimble (P and O Cruises), Merrian Carver (Celebrity Cruises), Christopher Caldwell (Carnival), and George Smith IV (Royal Caribbean), as well as the disappearance of Italian crew member Angelo Faliva (Princess Cruises). 

The new cruise safety law will not go into effect until 2012.  In the meantime, there remains few arrests and even fewer convictions when crimes occur during cruises.  The most recent alleged crime, involving a 17 year old who was allegedly raped after a crew member purchased her a half dozen drinks, resulted in a quick FBI investigation and no arrest.  Royal Caribbean terminated the crew member and gave him a one way ticket back home.  But the cruise line bartender who sold the booze and those on the cruise ship who observed the crew member drinking and fraternizing with the minor remain employed today.

The fired bartender is free to seek employment on one of the other 25 cruise lines which operate out of the U.S.  The cruise lines who are members of the Cruise Line International association ("CLIA") do not share information with each other when a crew member from one of the CLIA cruise ships is fired for sexual misconduct.

In the case of firm client Janet Kelly, raped by a cruise line bartender on a CLIA cruise ship, the crew member applied for work on another line (Princess Cruises) and was accepted for employment.  Sexual predators are emboldened by the cruise industry's indifference to this problem.

 

Credit: Julie Rowe, Time Magazine