A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has convicted and sentenced nine foreigners for stealing 3,423.097 metric tonnes of crude oil from Nigeria.
The vessel, MT Asteris, and its crew were intercepted by the Nigerian Navy Ship, Beecroft, during a routine patrol in Lagos on March 26, while trying to export the stolen product.
Upon interrogation, neither the Captain nor any of the crew members could produce any relevant document authorising the lifting and destination of the petroleum products they had on board.
They were arrested and after investigation, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on June 18 arraigned the foreigners and their vessel before Justice Ibrahim Buba on a four-count charge of conspiracy and illegal dealing in petroleum products, an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 17 of the Miscellaneous Offences Act of 2004.
When the charges were read to the accused persons, they all pleaded not guilty and were granted bail in the sum of 50 million Naira each.
Their trial commenced on June 23 and the EFCC called six witnesses in proof of its case against the foreigners before the court finally arrived at a guilty verdict six months later.
In handing down the sentence, Justice Buba said he was satisfied that the EFCC proved its case beyond reasonable doubt.
The judge said the evidence of the prosecution witnesses were not controverted and the failure of the convicts to supply evidence that they had a lawful permit to deal in crude oil further strengthened the prosecution’s case that they were trying to export the stolen product.
Justice Buba reaffirmed the court’s commitment to sending a strong signal to Nigerians and foreigners alike that the country had laws and the laws were enforceable.
He then sentenced the five Filipinos and four Bangladeshi nationals to a jail term of five years each on the four counts with an option of a five million Naira fine for each count.
The sentences were to run concurrently as the convicts could either choose to spend five years each in prison or pay the fine of 20 million Naira each.
Their vessel and the cargo on board are to be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.