Court sentences six Foreigners, Nigerian to seven years jail over oil bunkering

A Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on Monday sentenced six foreigners and a Nigerian to seven years imprisonment after their conviction for oil theft. Two of the foreigners are from Pakistan, two from Ukrain, one from Ghana, and one from Indonesia.

The convicts include Mohammed Ejaz and Nasser Khan – Pakistanis; Oleksandr Nazarenko and Oleksandr Kashernvi – Ukrainians; Romeo Annang – Ghanaian, Fredrik Omenu – Indonesian; and David Otuohi – Nigerian.

The presiding judge, Justice Kolawole Omotosho, delivered the judgement on Monday after three years of prosecution of the convicts by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Port Harcourt Zonal Office.

The convicts were arraigned for oil theft alongside four other persons who include Victor Mikpayi (Beninois), Francis Ahorlu and Kwesi Attah (Ghanaians), and Victor Azebiri (Nigerian). The court, however, discharged and acquitted the four other suspects.

It was gathered that they were being prosecuted with a company – Asztral Shipping Corporation SA, and a Vessel, MT. TECNE (also known as MT STAR), on four counts of conspiracy, dealing in petroleum products without a licence and tampering with oil pipelines.

All the defendants were said to have pleaded not guilty to the charges. Thereafter, their trial commenced which lasted three years.

Justice Omotosho delivering judgment on Monday,  proclaimed the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eleventh defendants guilty of all the four charges, sentencing them to seven years imprisonment, with an option of fine of N2 million each.

The Judge said the sentences run concurrently from their date of arraignment.

The Judge decided that the first, eighth, ninth, and tenth defendants were discharged and acquitted on the ground that “they were not linked to the commission of the crime”.

The company involved in the crime – Asztral Shipping Corporation SA – was liquidated by the court while the vessel conveying the offensive crude oil was forfeited to the Federal Government.

The convicted oil blunderers were arrested by the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) DELTA intercepted their ship on April 25, 2017,  at Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Afremo ‘A’ Terminal, South East of Escravos in Burutu Local Government Area, Delta State.

The ship was detained for illegal loading of petroleum products suspected to be crude oil.

Members of the crew, according to the EFCC, connived with Victor Azeberi, one Peter Ala, and David Ogoma (who is at large), to lift about 1905.836 cubic litres of crude oil.

The ship had no clearance from relevant Nigerian maritime agencies to navigate in Nigerian waters and all the foreign crew on board the ship had no valid documents to enter the country.

Count one of the charges read, “That you Victor Azebiri, David Otuhohi, Mohammed Ejaz, Naseer Khan, Oleksandr Nazarenko, Oleksandr Kashernvi, Romeo Annang, Francis Ahorlu, Kwesi Attah, Victor Mikpayi, Frederik Fatin Omenu, Astral Shipping Corporation SA, MT TECNE a.k.a MT STAR (Vessel), Peter Ala (at large), David Ogoma, a.k.a Ambassador (at large) and others now at large, on or about the 20th and/or 25th day of April 2017 at Escravos within the jurisdiction of this honourable court did conspire among yourselves to commit felony to wit: distribute, deal in, or with petroleum product without appropriate licence and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 3(6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act CAP M17 of the Revised Edition (Laws of the Federation of Nigeria) 2007 and Punishable under Section 1(17) of the same Act”.

Another count read, “That you Victor Azebiri, David Otuhohi, Mohammed Ejaz, Naseer Khan, Oleksandr Nazarenko, Oleksandr Kashernvi, Romeo Annang, Francis Ahorlu, Kwesi Attah, Victor Mikpayi, Frederik Fatin Omenu, Astral Shipping Corporation SA, MT TECNE a.k.a MT STAR (Vessel), Peter Ala (At large), David Ogoma, a.k.a Ambassador (at large) and others now at large, on or about the 25th day of April 2017 at Escravos within the jurisdiction of this honourable court did without appropriate authority or licence distribute, deal in, or with petroleum product to wit:1905.836 cubic litres of crude oil conveyed in a vessel christened “MT TECNE” (VESSEL) and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1(17) (a) of the Miscellaneous Offences  Act CAP M17 of the Revised Edition (Laws of the Federation of Nigeria) 2007 and Punishable under Section 1(17) of the same Act”

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