Justice Garba Haruna of an Appeal Court sitting in Lagos has dismissed the suit challenging the judgment of Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, which convicted 14 foreign nationals for unlawfully dealing petroleum products in Nigeria.
The lower court had found them guilty of dealing in 1,738.087 metric tons of petroleum without lawful authority or license, as alleged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The judge then sentenced 11 out of the 14 convicted foreigners to two years’ imprisonment with an option to pay a fine of N5 million each on the five-count charges leveled against them.
Three others who jumped bail and absconded were sentenced to five years’ imprisonment without an option of paying a fine. He convicted and sentenced them in absentia and issued a warrant for their arrest, emphasizing that their jail term would commence on whatever day they would be re-arrested.
The three convicts who jumped bail are Russian nationals.
The convicts were arraigned alongside their vessel, MT Anuket Emerald, and two companies, Monjasa DMCC and Glencore Energy UK Limited.
Their names, as listed on the charge sheet, are: Arthur Pakhladzhian, Sergo Abbgarian, Vasily Shkundich, Vitaliy Bilours, Hlarion Regipor, Laguta Oleksiy and Cadavis Gerarado.
The others are: Kretov Andry, Badurian Benjamin, Chepikov Olksan, Naranjo Antero, Patro Christian, Alcayde Joel and Caratiquit Beyan.
They were identified as citizens of Russia, Ukraine, Philippines and Japan.
EFCC prosecutor Rotimi Oyedepo had told the court that the men were handed over to the commission by the Nigerian Navy. The Navy officials, on March 27, 2015, intercepted them with their vessel loaded with crude oil estimated at 1,738.087 metric tons.
They were equally said to have been found in possession of 1,500 metric tons of Automated Gas Oil as well as 3,035 metric tons of Low Pour Fuel Oil.
The appeal to overturn the judgment was dismissed by the Court of Appeal on Tuesday, December 19. The court also ordered the forfeiture of the vessel, MT Anuket Emerald, loaded with crude oil estimated at 1,738.087 metric tons, including 1,500 metric tons of Automated Gas Oil as well as 3,035 metric tons of Low Pour Fuel Oil.
At the High Court, Mr. Oyedepo called seven witnesses, while the defense counsel, Babajide Koku, called three witnesses.
However, Justice Buba held that he was satisfied with how the prosecution proved its case against the defendants beyond reasonable doubt, adding that he had no difficulty in convicting them on all the five counts preferred against them.
The EFCC, on June 10, 2015, had arraigned the 14 convicts on four counts, but a fifth count was later added to the charge.
They pleaded not guilty and were granted bail in the sum of N50 million each, which was guaranteed by Zenith Bank Plc.
Upon the disappearance of the three Russians, the court subsequently ordered Zenith Bank to forfeit N150 million to the Nigerian government.