The Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, has dismissed an appeal filed by 14 foreigners who were convicted for oil theft by a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos.
The convicts are: Artur Pakhladzhian, Sergo Abbgarian, Vasily Shkundich, Vitaliy Bilours, Hlarion Regipor, Laguta Oleksiy and Cadavis Gerarado and Kretov Andry. Others are: Badurian Benjamin, Chepikov Olksan, Naranjo Antero, Patro Christian, Alcayde Joel and Caratiquit Beyan.
The convicts, who are citizens of Russia, Ukraine, the Philippines and Japan, were handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, after arrest by officers of the Nigerian Navy on March 27, 2015, along with their vessel, MT Anuket Emerald, which was loaded with crude oil estimated at 1,738.087 metric tons.
They were subsequently arraigned alongside their vessel, MT Anuket Emerald, and two companies, Monjasa DMCC and Glencore Energy UK Limited, on June 10, 2015 on an amended five- count charge before Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos for unlawful possession of 1,500 metric tons of Automated Gas Oil as well as 3,035 metric tons of Low Pour Fuel Oil.
They all pleaded not guilty to the charge preferred against them, thereby setting the stage for their trial.
In the course of the trial, the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, had called seven witnesses who testified against the accused.
Delivering his judgment, Justice Buba had found them guilty on each count and sentenced 11 out of the 14 convicted foreigners to two years imprisonment each, with an option of N5m fine.
The sentences are to run from March 2016 when they were apprehended by the Nigerian Navy and handed over to the EFCC.
Three of the foreigners, who had jumped bail and absconded, were convicted and sentenced in absentia to five years imprisonment without an option of fine.
The judge also issued a warrant for their arrest, emphasising that their jail term would commence any time they are re-arrested.
The two companies that were convicted alongside the foreigners were ordered to pay a N5m fine on each of the five counts levelled against them, Wilson Uwujaren Head, Media and Publicity of the EFCC said in a statement on Wednesday.
Justice Buba also ordered the forfeiture of the vessel, MT Anuket Emerald, loaded with crude oil estimated at 1,738.087 metric tons; the 1,500 metric tons of Automated Gas Oil and 3,035 metric tons of Low Pour Fuel Oil to the Federal Government.
Following the ruling, the accused had approached the appellate court to set aside the judgment.
However, in a judgment read on Tuesday by Justice Garuba Haruna, the Appeal Court upheld the ruling of the lower court convicting them.