In a growing scandal over the sinking of an excursion boat on New Year's Eve, the head of the Merchant Marine Union said Wednesday the ship was piloted by a former car mechanic without a captain's license.

A Brazilian industrialist, meanwhile, reported to police that he overheard a musician of the ship's orchestra say Coast Guard officials had been bribed about $120 to let the vessel proceed overloaded.The boat company and the Coast Guard declined comment on the new charges.

The accusations came a day after a former owner of the excursion boat the Bateau Mouche IV, which capsized on New Year's Eve, said the vessel had been modified to carry only 60 persons at most.

Authorities said the death toll stood at 52 with nine people missing.