More than $3 million worth of lobster is at the centre of a complex, international case involving fraud and theft allegations against three men from southwestern Nova Scotia, RCMP said Tuesday.
“They’ve been in the lobster industry for quite some time,” RCMP Supt. Martin Marin said in an interview. “They have deep roots.”
The Mounties’ investigation started in July 2015 when allegations arose that a man from Shag Harbour, N.S., had allegedly defrauded a Shelburne County lobster company of $175,000 during the previous fishing season.
During the course of the investigation, the RCMP looked into similar allegations that a lobster company in Clark’s Harbour had been defrauded of over $500,000 in 2014-15.
RCMP say they also investigated allegations that a Barrington company was defrauded of over $500,000, a Shelburne County company was defrauded of $1.7 million and a company in Taiwan was defrauded of over $250,000 – all in 2015-16.
Marin declined to offer details about the allegations, nothing that none has been proven in court.
Three men from Shelburne County were arrested last Wednesday.
Marin said the three have substantial reach and influence on the local, national and international seafood markets.
“It’s a multimillion-dollar industry,” he said. “And where there’s opportunity, there’s also crimes of opportunity. It seems as though that is what transpired here.”
The lobster business remains the most lucrative fishery in Canada, producing more than $1 billion in commercial landings last year. The 10,000 licensed enterprises in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces employ about 30,000 harvesters – and they’ve been making big money in recent years.
In 2015, 82,700 tonnes of Canadian lobster was exported – 80 per cent of it to the United States – generating $2.03 billion in revenue, according to federal figures.
Amid growing demand for the tasty crustaceans, fishermen have been hauling in record catches that are commanding the highest prices in more than a decade.
The market for lobster has been getting a boost from the weak Canadian dollar, growing demand from China and a shift in consumer tastes toward processed meat in everything from lobster rolls to lobster macaroni and cheese.
The biggest lobster fishery in Canada can be found in southwestern Nova Scotia, where there are more than 3,000 fishermen and deckhands.
The Mounties say their recent investigation in that area included help from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Canada Revenue Agency, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada and the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries.
Terry Dale Banks, 51, of Shag Harbour, is facing four counts of fraud over $5,000 and three counts of theft over $5,000 involving four lobster companies: Independent Fisheries Ltd. in Shelburne; Stoney Island Fisheries Ltd. in Barrington; CRT Seafoods Ltd. in Clark’s Harbour, and the Sure First Seafood Company Ltd., based in Taiwan.
Wayne Lawrence Banks, 69, of Shag Harbour has been charged with three counts of fraud over $5,000 and three counts of theft over $5,000 involving each of the same companies, except CRT Seafoods.
Fifty-one year-old Christopher Olen Malone of Port Clyde is facing one charge of fraud over $5,000 and one charge of theft over $5,000 involving Independent Fisheries Ltd.
All three men have been released on conditions and are scheduled to appear in Shelburne provincial court on Aug. 24.