From James Ojo, Abuja
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has dragged nine foreigners and two Nigerians to court for engaging in oil bunkering.
Also standing trial before Justice J.K Omotosho of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, is a company, Asztral Shipping Corporation SA, and a Vessel, MT. TECNE a.k.a MT STAR used in the illegal business.
According to the EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, the alleged oil thieves were arrested when the vessel was intercepted by men of the Nigerian Navy operating NNS DELTA on April 25, 2017 at Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Afremo ‘A’ Terminal, South East of Escravos in Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State.
It was alleged that the crew connived with Victor, Peter and David alias Ambassador, who are now at large, to siphon about 1905.836 cubic litres of crude oil.
The suspects, Mohammed, Naseer (Pakistani), Oleksandr, Oleksandr (Ukrainians), Romeo, Francis, Kwesi (Ghanaians), Victor (Beninois), Fredrik (Indonesian), Victor and David (Nigerians) were remanded in prison custody pending arraignment and hearing
They were slammed with a four-count charge bordering on conspiracy, dealing in petroleum products without a license and tampering with oil pipelines.
There was a mild drama at the commencement of the proceedings when counsel to the second -11th defendants, Abiye, notified the court that the 5th, 6th and 11th defendants who are Ukranians and Indonesians are not proficient in English language and requested that the prosecutor should provide interpreters for the accused persons.
In response, Kayode Oni asked for a short adjournment to get interpreters for some of the foreigners and remanded the defendants in prison as the EFCC’s cell was congested.
Justice Omotoso consequently adjourned the matter to September 6, 2017 for arraignment and hearing. He ordered that the prosecution should provide interpreters for the accused persons and remanded them in Port Harcourt prison.
The ship allegedly had no clearance from relevant Nigerian maritime agencies to navigate Nigerian waters and all the foreign crew on board the ship had no valid documents to enter Nigeria.