Friday, February 1, 2008

Five Indicted in South Korean Oil Spill

South Korean prosecutors charged five people and two companies, including Samsung Heavy Industries, for marine pollution Monday in the country's worst-ever oil spill.

The Dec. 7 accident occurred after a barge slammed into a supertanker, which leaked 78,920 barrels of oil into western coastal waters. The accident jeopardized the ecosystem and the livelihood of residents in the area, home to some of the country's most scenic beaches.

The three South Korean captains of the barge and its two tugboats, along with two Indians who operated the Hong Kong-registered tanker Hebei Spirit, were charged with polluting the ocean and with professional negligence, the regional prosecutors' office said in a statement posted on its Web site.

Two of the South Koreans were being held in custody, while the other South Korean and the two Indians were banned from leaving the country but were not in custody, according to the statement issued in Seosan, close to the accident site 151 kilometers, or 94 miles, southwest of Seoul.

Prosecutors also charged the tanker's owner, Hebei Spirit Shipping, and the barge's operator, Samsung Heavy Industries, with polluting the ocean.

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