Court convicts 14 foreigners over illicit oil deals
Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, Lagos yesterday convicted 14 foreigners for dealing in petroleum products in Nigeria without lawful authority. The judge found them guilty of dealing in 1,738.087 metric tons of petroleum product without lawful authority or licence as alleged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Buba sentenced 11 out of the 14 convicted foreigners to two years imprisonment with an option a fine of N1 million each on each of the five counts leveled against them. The judge said the sentence would run from last year March when they were apprehended by the Nigerian Navy and handed over to the EFCC.
He, however, sentenced the remaining three convicts who had jumped bail and absconded to five years imprisonment without an option of fine. The three convicts who jumped bail are Russians. The judge convicted and sentenced them in absentia and issued a warrant for their arrest, emphasising that their jail term would commence on whatever day they were re-arrested.
The judge ordered the forfeiture of the petroleum products and the vessel into which they were loaded to the Federal Government and ordered the two companies convicted alongside the foreigners to pay N5 million fine on each of the five counts levelled against them.
The EFCC had on June 10, 2015 arraigned the 14 convicts on four counts before Justice Buba. They were arraigned alongside their vessel – MT Anukt Emerald, and two companies – Monjasa DMCC, and Glencore Energy UK Ltd. Their names, as listed on the charge sheet, are Artur Pakhladzhian, Sergo Abbgarian, Vasily Shkundich, vitaliy Bilours, Hlarion Regipor, Laguta Oleksiy and Cadavis Gerarado. Others are Kretov Andry, Badurian Benjamin, Chepikov Olksan, Naranjo Antero, Patro Christian, Alcayde Joel and Caratiquit Beyan. They were identified as citizens of Russia, Ukraine, Philippine and Japan.
The prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, had told the court that the men were handed over to the EFCC by the Nigerian Navy, which on February 27, 2015 intercepted them with their vessel, MT Anukpet Emerald, loaded with crude oil estimated at 1,738.087 metric tons. The foreigners were equally said to have been found in unlawful possession of 1,500 metric tons of Automated Gas Oil as well as 3,035 metric tons of Low Pour Fuel Oil. T
They had pleaded not guilty and were granted bail at N50 million each, which was guaranteed by Zenith Bank Plc. Upon the disappearance of the three Russians, the court had subsequently ordered Zenith Bank to forfeit N150 million to the Federal Government.
Upon their conviction, the defence counsel, Mr. Babajide Koku, urged the court to temper justice with mercy, saying the convicts were young men in their prime, who had no previous records of conviction.
Koku said the 11 convicts who were in court were only employees carrying out the instruction of their employer and were not privy to the deal.
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