24 Sep 2014

Multiple raids in fishing quota probe

6:17 pm on 24 September 2014

Officials raided a Hawke's Bay-based fishing company's operations nationwide this morning to secure evidence in an investigation into suspected fishing quota fraud.

Ministry for Primary Industries director of compliance Dean Baigent said potential legal action prevented it from naming the Hawke's Bay family based fishing entity or any people involved.

However, the nature of the offending was serious, he said.

"We are in there at the moment confirming what our thoughts are by going through and seizing documents and key pieces of information which will allow us to conduct our analysis in this formal part of the investigation, to see if we can make the decision of taking it forward to prosecution."

Mr Baigent said 88 compliance officers, investigators and police visited sites in Hawke's Bay, Wellington, Tauranga, Gisborne, the Chatham Islands and Christchurch.

The investigation involved activity right along the commercial supply chain, from catching, landing, processing and exporting.

There appeared to be large discrepancies between the company's catch records and export documents, with more fish being exported than is being reported as caught, he said.

No vessels had been seized.

Family owned Hawke's Bay Seafoods is refusing to confirm or deny it is the company being investigated but a statement on its website said it was unable to pack any orders due to unforeseen circumstances.