Nigerian Court Jails 14 Foreigners For Oil Smuggling
BEVERLY HILLS, March 18, (THEWILL) – A Nigerian Court has jailed 14 foreign sailors from Russia, Ukraine, Philippine and Japan between two and five years for dealing in petroleum products in Nigeria without lawful authority as alleged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Justice Ibrahim Buba of a Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday found the suspects guilty of illegally transporting 1,738 tonnes of crude oil and some 4,500 tonnes of petrol, also called gasoline, in their vessel MT Anukpet Emerald.
Buba sentenced 11 of the 14 foreigners to two years' jail term, which would run from last year March when they were apprehended by the Nigerian Navy and handed over to the EFCC, with an option of a fine of N2m each.
The remaining three — all Russians — who had jumped bail and absconded were given five years each in absentia without an option of fine and issued a warrant for their arrest, emphasising that their jail term would commence on the day they are re-arrested.
The men, identified as citizens of Russia, Ukraine, Philippine and Japan, were arraigned alongside their vessel – MT Anukt Emerald, and two companies – Monjasa DMCC, and Glencore Energy UK Ltd.
Buba ordered the two companies convicted alongside with the foreigners to pay a N5m fine on each of the five counts levelled against them and ordered the forfeiture of the petroleum products and the vessel into which they were loaded to the Federal Government.
The Nigerian navy arrested the sailors and the vessel in February 2015 and handed the case to the EFCC which arraigned the 14 men, on June 10, 2015, on four counts before Justice Buba; later amended with the counts increased to five.
They had pleaded not guilty and were granted a bail of N50m each, which was guaranteed by Zenith Bank Plc which has been ordered to forfeit N150m to the Federal Government upon the disappearance of the three Russians.
In his judgment, Justice Buba said he was satisfied that the prosecution proved its case against the defendants beyond reasonable doubts and had no difficulty convicting them on all the five counts levelled against them.
Story by David Oputah