As recently reported in an article by The Post and Courier, tensions are high regarding the detention of a chemical tanker crewman in South Carolina under a material witness law. Panagiotis Koutoukakis, a Greek citizen, has been charged with two felonies for his participation in a conspiracy to falsify records and hide illegal pollution discharge from a tanker. He is set to be arraigned along with four other men on charges in Charleston next week. Koutoukakis served as the chief engineer on the tanker when the pollution was allegedly discharged illegally. He is accused of ordering the ship’s crew members to improperly pass the discharge overboard between May and July 2015. In addition, Koutoukakis is also accused of failing to record the ship’s discharges as part of the ship’s official record as required by law.
Through his public defender, Koutoukakis alleges that the U.S. government forced him to live in a homeless shelter while he awaits the charges. His family remains in Greece, and the U.S. government has refused to turnover his passport to allow him to return to his family because of weak Greek extradition laws that would not compel his return for the trial. Koutoukakis alleges that he cannot support his family back home and that he cannot find employment in this country. The judge declined to grant Koutoukakis’ request to retrieve his passport from the U.S. Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section so that he can return home. Koutoukakis’ attorney said that the government remains unwilling to provide adequate accommodations until the trial.