A Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt has discharged and acquitted four Ukrainians and a vessel charged with illegal oil bunkering by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The four Ukrainian Vaskov Andriy, Garchev Mykhaylo, Shula Madyslay, Orlovkyi Lyvan and a chartered Vessel MT. San Pedro PIO were arraigned and tried before the court on Initial two count charge of conspiracy to deal in petroleum products and dealing in petroleum products without permit, the charge was later amended and increased to six counts.
The presiding Judge, Justice Adamu Turaki Mohammed, discharged and acquitted the four Ukrainians identified as Vaskov Andriy, Garchev Mykhaylo, Shulga Vladyslav and Orlovkyi Lyvan as well as their ship MT. San Pedro PIO, after finding them not guilty on all the six counts.
The Ukrainian and their ship were arraigned before the court on March 21, 2019
In his verdict, Justice Adamu Turaki declared that there was no evidence that they broke the law,consequently he ordered that their vessel, which was seized, should be released forthwith.
The offences of conspiracy to deal in petroleum products, dealing in petroleum products, making false documents and altering documents alleged to have been committed by the defendants are contrary to sections 3(6) and 1(17)(a), 1 (2)(c) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, 2007.
They all pleaded not guilty to the charge.
According to the prosecution, MT San Padre Pio and a 16 all-male crew members were arrested by the Nigerian Navy in September 2018.
During the trial of the case the team of the prosecuting counsels led by Samuel Chime called nine witnesses and tendered ten exhibits.
However, the defendants denied the allegation,and in their defence, their counsel Barrister Babajide Koku SAN,Leading six other senior counsels call five witnesses and tendered three exhibits
Barrister Koku SAN contended that the allegation was baseless because the defendants obtained appropriate authorisation for their operations.
In his verdict Justice ADAMU Turaki Mohammed upheld Koku’s submission and said the prosecution failed to prove its case.
The judge declare that “ by virtue of the sale agreement between AUGUST A Energy and ANOSYKE Group of Companies, the amended purchase order together with evidence of Prosecution witness 6 under cross-examination, who admitted that the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) import permit is valid, I have no doubt that the Prosecution has failed to prove that the defendants had no licence or authority to deal in Petroleum Product. I so hold.
“…Again, Exhibit A1 -Navy verification certificate has shown that Naval approval was obtained in respect of Exhibit J-,product (cargo) on board while the Department of Petroleum Resources import permit attached to Exhibit 63 has shown that the necessary permit was equally secured in respect of Exhibit J from the DPR.
“It is clear both from Exhibit A1- Navy verification certificate and the DPR permit, that the company in whose favour the approvals were granted is ANOSYKE Group of Companies.
“Similarly, as I have held above that the Prosecution has failed to prove Count 2 of the charge against the Defendants, I am equally unable to infer, from the entire evidence adduced by the prosecution, how the Defendants conspired with each other to, without lawful authority or appropriate licence import; distribute or deal in/with Petroleum Product as contained in Count 1, particularly having regard to Exhibit A1 and the DPR permit attached to exhibit G3 -the letter of their solicitor . I so hold
Accordingly, therefore,the defendants are found not guilty as charged and are hereby discharged and acquitted.
As a consequence, the order made on the 26th September, 2018 in respect of Exhibit J- the product cargo on board is hereby vacated.