Page last updated at 17:58 GMT, Tuesday, 5 May 2009 18:58 UK

Fish firm faces 4m confiscation

Elizabeth Stevenson
Elizabeth Stevenson, arriving at court, rejects the 4m claim

Cornish fishing firm W Stevenson and Son could be forced to hand back millions of pounds after it was found to have cheated on quotas.

The firm was found guilty or pleaded guilty in 2007 to a number of charges relating to the illegal landing and sale of quota fish at Newlyn.

A confiscation hearing at Truro Crown Court heard that the benefits from the illegal activity were more than £4m.

The defence says that the figure is very much smaller.

The court will decide how much of the firm's assets will be confiscated.

At the trial, Exeter Crown Court was told that analysis showed during six months in 2002 almost a quarter of fish that was landed by a sample of 20 Stevenson vessels was illegal.

Cod, hake and anglerfish were mis-described as non-quota, lower-value, species such as ling, turbot and bass.

The Stevenson firm, which runs auctions where the fish are sold, also falsified the auction records to make sure they matched the fiddled figures provided by the skippers.

This enabled them to break the European rules which were designed to save dwindling fish stocks.

The firm is run by Elizabeth Stevenson, former president of the National Federation of Fisheries Organisations.

At the time of the trial, the judge said that the Stevenson firm was at the centre of a conspiracy.

Earlier this year, the owners and skippers of six Newlyn fishing boats were fined for their part in the crime.

The confiscation hearing is due to last three days.

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