Justice Ibrahim Nasir Buba of a Lagos Federal High Court, on Friday, convicted and sentenced 14 foreigners over unlawful dealing in petroleum products in Nigeria.
The names of the convicts as listed on the charge sheet, are Artur Pakhladzhian, Sergo Abbgarian, Vasily Shkundich, vitaliy Bilours, Hlarion Regipor, Laguta Oleksiy and Cadavis Gerarado, Kretov Andry, Badurian Benjamin, Chepikov Olksan, Naranjo Antero, Patro Christian, Alcayde Joel and Caratiquit Beyan.
The convicts were arraigned and convicted alongside the vessel they used in committing the scandalous act- MT Anukt Emerald, and two companies – Monjasa DMCC, and Glencore Energy UK Ltd.
The convicts were citizens of Russia, Ukraine, Philippine and Japan respectively.
Justice Buba found convicts guilty of dealing in 1,738.087 metric tons of petroleum product in Nigeria without lawful authority or licence as alleged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
11 out of the 14 convicted foreigners bagged two years jail term with an option of N1 million fine, on each of that five counts leveled against them. The sentence is to run concurrently from the last year March, when they were arrested by the Nigerian Navy and handed over to the anti-graft agency.
The judge however, sentenced the remaining three convicts who had jumped bail and absconded to five years imprisonment without an option of fine.
The three convicts who jumped bail are Russians.
The judge convicted and sentenced the three absconded Russians in absentia, while also issued a warrant for their arrest, emphasising that their jail term would commence on whatever day they were re-arrested.
The judge ordered the forfeiture of the petroleum products and the vessel into which they were loaded to the federal government.
He ordered the two companies convicted alongside with the foreigners to pay N5million fine on each of the five counts leveled against them.
The EFCC had on June 10, 2015 arraigned the 14 convicts on four counts before Justice Buba.
The charge was later amended with the counts increased to five.
The prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, had told the court that the men were handed over to the EFCC by the Nigerian Navy which on March 27, 2015 intercepted them with their vessel, MT Anukpet Emerald, 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.
They had pleaded not guilty and were granted a N50million bail each, which was guaranteed by Zenith Bank Plc.
Upon the disappearance of the three Russians, the court had subsequently ordered Zenith Bank to forfeit N150million to the federal government.
To prove the allegations against the convicts, Oyedepo called seven witnesses, while the defendants, through their lawyer, Mr. Babajide Koku (SAN), called three witnesses.
Delivering judgment on Friday, Justice Buba stated that the court was satisfied that the prosecution proved its case against the defendants beyond reasonable doubts. Adding that the court had no difficulty in convicting them on all the five counts preferred against them.
Upon their conviction, lawyer to the convicted foreigners, Koku, urged the court to temper justice with mercy, saying the convicts were young men in their prime, who had no previous records of conviction.
Koku said the 11 convicts who were in court were only employees carrying out the instruction of their employer and were not privy to the deal.
He said: “we plead for mercy, My Lord. Abraham Lincoln said, ‘I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.’ The convicts are young men in the prime of their lives. They have no family ties in Nigeria. In fact, the convicts here are not the ones in control of the ship. They can at best be described as the laymen of the crew.”


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