15 November 2005

Australia: Diver admits conspiring for abalone haul

A FORMER abalone diver pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiracy charges. Michael Anthony Ingram, 40, of Coles Bay, admitted recording abalone he caught on another diver's paperwork the other diver was not allowed to include.

He pleaded guilty to two charges of conspiracy relating to two different divers he dived for between July 2000 and November 2002.

Crown prosecutor Daryl Coates, SC, told the Supreme Court in Hobart the amount of abalone involved in the case totalled 6.6 tonnes and was valued at $309,166.

Mr Coates said Ingram was paid a total of $39,593 by the two divers he dived for.

The court heard the two divers held abalone quota units known as Furneaux units.

Under fishery laws any abalone caught and recorded on dive documentation relating to Furneaux units had to be caught by the diver the unit was allocated to.

If a diver who had the Furneaux units could not dive, or left the industry, the units had to be surrendered to the state.

The state could then sell the units, which had a market value of $300,000.

Mr Coates conceded that the conspiracy had not threatened the abalone industry because what was caught had been allowed for by authorities.

But he said it had deferred a benefit to the state in receiving the units back.

Ingram's lawyer, David Gunson, SC, told the court Ingram had not been aware of the seriousness of his conduct.

He said Ingram had worked in the abalone industry for 10 years but described it as a "total waste".

"Mr Ingram has worked very hard for 10 years with very little return coming back to him," he said.

"He has had a financially disastrous foray into the abalone industry."

Mr Gunson said Ingram left the industry in 2004 after suffering the bends.

The divers Ingram dived for have been charged with conspiracy and Ingram has agreed to give evidence for the prosecution.

Chief Justice Peter Underwood remanded Ingram in custody for sentencing on Friday.

Ingram is the fourth abalone diver to appear in the Supreme Court on charges relating to Furneaux dive units.

Those divers were all charged in relation to abalone catches totalling more than three tonnes.

Source: www.news.com.au


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