Diver admits abalone scam (Australia)

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Posted by on April 18, 2005 at 11:03:00:

A MAN who worked at a state fisheries institute has pleaded guilty to abalone poaching.

The Supreme Court in Hobart heard yesterday that Stewart John McGregor Dickson, 32, of Clearwater Court, Blackmans Bay, resigned last Friday from the Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute.

In a 12-month period spanning 2000 and 2001, Dickson and an unnamed diver took abalone illegally which Dickson then passed on to Jeffrey Thomas Ho and Peter James Barrett.

Ho and Barrett have been convicted for their roles in illegal abalone activities.

In the 12 months, Dickson supplied the pair with abalone meat 27 times.

The court heard Dickson provided 2.134 tonnes of abalone illegally which had a beach price -- what the diver is paid by the processor -- of $262,000.

Dickson dived for half the abalone and the other diver collected the rest.

Dickson's proceeds from his own diving efforts were just under $25,000. The other diver received a similar amount.

Prosecutor Daryl Coates, SC, said it was not alleged the illegal activity occurred during Dickson's work for TAFI.

But he said it was an aggravating factor that Dickson was employed by an organisation designed to protect the abalone fishery and Dickson was involved in large-scale poaching.

The court heard Dickson and Ho met in 1997 and the two shared an interest in abalone.

At interviews with police and the National Crime Authority, Dickson said he was a victim of a conspiracy between Barrett and Ho, wrongly implicating him.

Michael Daley, for Dickson, said Dickson did not know Ho and Barrett were looking to the illegal abalone trade to overcome financial problems.

Dickson said he believed Ho was wealthy and he started to borrow money from him.

It was only in the leadup to 2000-01 that pressure was put on Dickson to repay loans and Ho told him he could pay him by obtaining abalone.

Mr Daley said it was not a breach-of-trust case because none of what Dickson did had any connection with TAFI.

He said when Dickson was first spoken with he was scared and had lied and one lie led to another.

The case was adjourned until April 28 and Dickson was remanded on bail.

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