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Greek Shipping Company Fined for Dumping Oil, Whistleblowers Rewarded

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Coast Guard Investigator Matt Jones shows the cellphone used by a crew member to gather evidence used to tip off customs agents.
Sabri Ben-Achour
Coast Guard Investigator Matt Jones shows the cellphone used by a crew member to gather evidence used to tip off customs agents.

By Sabri Ben-Achour

A judge in Baltimore is fining a Greek shipping company millions for secretly dumping oil overboard from one of its ships.

The whistleblowers will get a big chunk of that money.

In January, after a 740-foot long cargo ship sailed into Baltimore's harbor one of the crew members slipped a customs agent a note.

"This is to inform you of illegal discharging of oily water from bilge tank," the note said, according to U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein.

The investigation that resulted from that tip found - and the company later admitted - the ship dumped 6000 gallons of sludge overboard, evidence was hidden, valves were repainted to hide tool marks.

Today a judge fined Irika Shipping $4 million - and, under a federal law, gave $500,000 to the four whistleblowers.

Richard Udell is a trial attorney with the Justice Department.

"Increasingly we have cases that are brought from whistleblowers who can receive up to one half of a criminal fine," Udell says.

A report by the Academy of Sciences from 2002 estimated about 65 million gallons of oil are dumped by boats at sea each year.

That's almost a third of the oil that leaked from BP's Gulf well this summer.

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