A prominent Illawarra businessman and major sports sponsor who allowed his seafood company to illegally overfish eastern rock lobsters has failed to have his verdicts of guilt overturned on appeal.
Tory Lavalle was convicted in late 2017 following a mammoth Local Court hearing which found he knowingly permitted Lochiel South's head angler, Pasquale Brancatisano, to breach the lobster tagging system under the NSW Fisheries Management Act.
The lobsters, which were either tagged incorrectly or not tagged at all, were then on-sold to prominent Wollongong eateries including Seacliff Functions, which operates The Lagoon.
The offences came to light during a major investigation by NSW Fisheries in 2014 and resulted in the laying of more than 250 charges.
Brancatisano, the central figure in the investigation, was fined $76,000 and jailed for two years (later reduced to five months on appeal); Seacliff was fined $398,000; Lochiel South $378,000; Lavalle $40,000; and Lagoon head chef Emanuel Efstathiadis $20,000. Efstathiadis was also handed a suspended jail sentence for his role as conduit between the restaurants and the fishing company.
Seacliff, Lochiel and Lavalle lodged appeals against the magistrate's findings of guilt, however only Lochiel and Lavalle's appeals proceeded.
Lawyers for Lochiel and Lavalle - a major sponsor of the Illawarra Hawks and Wollongong Wolves through his main company Multi Civil and Rail Services - argued the prosecution case contained fundamental flaws and that Magistrate David Williams had been wrong to convict both parties.
However, Judge Andrew Haesler said Magistrate Williams' reasoning and his ultimate findings of guilt were correct on all counts.
He found Lavalle had knowingly permitted Brancatisano to breach the Act.
Judge Haesler also rejected suggestions that the monetary penalties imposed on Lavalle and Lochiel - $500,000 in fines and costs and $800,000 worth of confiscated fisheries shares - was "enormous" or "manifestly excessive".