Russian captain acquitted in US oil discharge case

The following is text of a news release from Jones Walker LLP:

(LAFAYETTE, La.) — After spending more than 19 months detained in Lake Charles, La., Capt. Vjaceslavs Birzakovs, master of the oil tanker Ridgebury Alexandra Z., was acquitted of all charges May 23 and is able to return to Russia.

Jones Walker attorneys Michael Magner and T.C. Wicker IV secured the verdict on behalf of Birzakovs following a four-day jury trial before U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey in the Western District of Louisiana, Lafayette Division.

The captain was accused of six criminal counts of federal pollution and obstruction of justice related to a Coast Guard investigation of Ridgebury Alexandra Z. for alleged MARPOL violations.

Birzakovs as well as 10 members of the crew and officers of the vessel had been detained in the south Louisiana area for 19 months in connection with the case. The captain maintained his innocence at all times and requested a speedy trial.

Following just two hours of deliberations, a jury found Birzakovs not guilty on all six charges.

“I cooperated fully with the Coast Guard’s investigation and am very pleased but not at all surprised by the jury’s verdict,” Birzakovs said. “I have always maintained my innocence and am grateful for the fair trial I received from the jury and Judge Zainey. I also want to thank my attorneys, Mike Magner and T.C. Wicker, of Jones Walker for their support and representation of me at trial."

Jones Walker’s Corporate Compliance & White Collar Defense Practice Group works closely with the firm’s Admiralty & Maritime Practice Group to represent clients with operations across the world and solve complex compliance issues, handle internal and government investigations, and defend against criminal prosecutions and enforcement actions in foreign jurisdictions and across the United States, in state and federal courts, and before U.S. and international arbitral bodies.

“As a result of the fair treatment Capt. Birzakovs received in the courts, he is now a believer in the American jury system,” said Magner. “We are glad that he was vindicated and can now return home to his family and his career.”

By Professional Mariner Staff