The Ministry of Primary Industries will (MPI) will have to provide more evidence that a prosecuted man is dead, a judge has ruled.
The ministry was again seeking to prosecute two Korean men over charges of dumping fish at sea – but one of them has since died, according to Chinese media reports.
The accused skipper of the Oyang 77, Dae Jun Lee, will today appear in the Christchurch District Court, charged with dumping fish at sea, misreporting quota species and not reporting the incidental catch of the highly endangered basking shark.
His co-accused Soon III Hwang, 44, was killed in a car crash in China earlier this year, but the MPI still wants to proceed with the prosecution. A conviction would enable them to confiscate the vessel.
Judge Brian Callahan today called the case “unusual” and “unique”, and ordered the MPI to engage with Interpol to discover more about the man’s death.
The defence had a certified, notarised death certificate for Hwang, but Judge Callahan was not convinced, saying that “there still needs to be evidence that this man is dead”.
He has adjourned the case until next month.
However the bizarre legal bid was ridiculed by a different judge in another hearing two weeks ago. Judge Gary Macaskill was disgusted with the case, ruling on November 8 that the idea of prosecuting a dead man was “absurd”.
He sarcastically suggested that evidence from the accused could be brought to light through a séance, mentioning that the case reminded him of “the Monty Python sketch with the dead parrot”.
The vessel’s skipper, 49-year-old Lee, has previously denied all 12 charges laid against him by the ministry. The charges came following a 3 News investigation in May.
Pre-trial arguments will today be heard ahead of arrangement for hearing the evidence from the vessel’s Indonesian crew.