Justice J.K Omotosho of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, has sentenced six foreigners and a Nigerian to seven years imprisonment for oil theft.
A statement released by the Economic and Financial Commission EFCC, says the foreigners which include two Pakistanis, Mohammed Ejaz, and Nasser Khan; two Ukrainians; Oleksandr Nazarenko and Oleksandr Kashernvi; a Ghanaian, Romeo Annang; an Indonesian, Fredrik Omenu, and a Nigerian David Otuohi, were convicted after three years of prosecution.
According to the statement, they were arraigned alongside a company, Asztral Shipping Corporation SA, and a vessel, MT. TECNE (aka MT STAR), on four counts bordering on conspiracy, dealing in petroleum products without a license, and tampering with oil pipelines. They pleaded not guilty when the charges were read to them.
Their pleas prepared the ground for their trial by the EFCC, which for three years presented evidence and witnesses against the convicts.
In his judgment, Justice Omotosho found the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 11th defendants guilty of all the four charges and sentenced them to seven years’ imprisonment with an option of N2m fine each, while the 1st, 8th, 9th and 10th defendants were discharged and acquitted on the grounds that “they were not linked to the commission of the crime”.
The sentences run concurrently from the date of their arraignment.
The EFCC statement, however, indicated that company, Asztral Shipping Corporation SA, was wound up by the court, while the vessel carrying the stolen crude oil, MT TECNE, was forfeited to the Federal Government.
It was gathered that the ship was intercepted by the NNS DELTA on April 25, 2017, at the Shell Petroleum Development Company’s Afremo ‘A’ Terminal, southeast of Escravos in the Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State for illegal loading of crude oil. The crew members were said to have connived with Victor Azeberi (the 1st defendant), Peter Ala, and David Ogoma (now at large) to siphon about 1905.836 cubic liters of crude oil.
The ship, according to the EFCC, had no clearance from relevant maritime agencies to navigate in Nigerian waters and all the foreign crew on board had no valid documents to enter Nigeria.