Costa Concordia firm pays £850k fine to avoid trial

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The operator of the doomed Costa Concordia cruise ship, which sank taking 32 lives, has paid a €1 million (£850,000) fine to extricate itself from a possible criminal trial, drawing fierce criticism from a group representing the vessel’s passengers.

Costa Crociere will pay the fine after a judge in Tuscany accepted a plea bargain from the firm yesterday which covers its responsibility for the capsizing of the Costa Concordia off the Italian island of Giglio in January 2012. Under Italian law, companies can face administrative sanctions for crimes committed by employees.

Prosecutor Francesco Verusio said that he was satisfied with the ruling.

A hearing in Tuscany will be held on Monday to determine whether six of the firm’s employees, including the captain, Francesco Schettino, who is accused of steering the vessel onto rocks, must stand trial.

But Italian consumer group Codacons, which is representing some of the 4,000 crew and passengers who were on board, called the deal “a slap to the survivors and most of all to the relatives of the victims”.

When the cruise ship struck the coast of Giglio during a “sail past” of the island, rocks tore a huge gash in the side of the 950ft long vessel, causing it to take on water and list before grounding in shallow water.

Costa Crociere has sought to blame the captain for the disaster, but passengers have claimed poor staff training led to a chaotic and for some, fatal evacuation of the vessel as crew members struggled to release life boats.

Costa Crociere still faces multiple civil law suits from survivors and relatives of those who died.