The Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal Tuesday upheld the prison sentences of 14 foreign nationals convicted for dealing in petroleum products in Nigeria without lawful authority.
A judge of the appellate court, Garba Haruna, dismissed the appeal filed by the convicts’ lawyer, Babajide Koku, in appeal number CA/L/909C/2016 to CA/L/909CO/2016 and also ordered the forfeiture of the vessel, MT Anuket Emerald, loaded with crude oil estimated at 1,738.087 metric tons.
The convicts, identified as citizens of Russia, Ukraine, Philippines, and Japan, had been arraigned before Ibrahim Buba of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court alongside their vessel and two companies – Monjasa DMCC and Glencore Energy UK Limited before Mr. Buba.
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.
The prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, told the court that the men were handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission by the Nigerian Navy who on March 27, 2015, intercepted them with their vessel 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.
Also forfeited to Federal government of Nigeria were 1,500 metric tons of Automated Gas Oil as well as 3,035 metric tons of Low Pour Fuel Oil.
To prove the allegations against the convicts, Mr Oyedepo called seven witnesses, while the defence counsel, Mr Koku, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, called three witnesses.
In his judgment, Justice Buba said he was satisfied that the prosecution proved its case against the defendants beyond reasonable doubts, adding that he had no difficulty in convicting them on all the five counts preferred against them.
The judge then sentenced 11 out of the 14 convicts to two years imprisonment each with an option to pay a fine of N5 million each on the five counts levelled against them.
The Court also said the sentence would run from last year March when they were arrested by the Nigerian Navy and handed over to the EFCC.
Three of the foreigners – all Russians – who had earlier jumped bail were sentenced to five years imprisonment without an option of fine.
The judge sentenced them in absentia and issued a warrant for their arrest, emphasising that their jail term would commence on whatever day they would be re-arrested.
The judge also ordered the forfeiture of the petroleum products and their vessel to the Federal Government.
He ordered the two companies convicted alongside the foreigners to pay a 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.
The charges were later amended and the counts increased to five.