Thursday, May 15, 2014

Oil theft: Court jails three Indians 15 years

A Federal High Court sitting in Yenegoa, Balyesa State, has sentenced three Indian nationals to 15 years imprisonment for oil theft.

The convicts­­­ ─ the owner of the vessel, Ajay Bhatiya; the Captain of the vessel, Sailesh Kumar Singh and Chadrashekar Sharma ─ were among 12 suspected oil thieves arrested aboard a vessel, MT Akshay.

They were arrested by men of the Joint Task Force, Central Naval Command, Yenegoa, Bayelsa State, sometime in November, 2012 and handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for further investigation and prosecution.

The EFCC spokesman, Wison Uwujaren, said the suspects, which included eight other Indians, one Ghanaian and a Nigerian, were arraigned on two counts on January 22, 2013 before Justice Lambo Akanbi.

The charges against the suspects read in part, “That you, Sailesh Singh, Chadrashekar Sharma, Dharmaraj Kumar, Ajay Kumar, Nimesh Parambil, Ashraf Ali, Sanjeev Kumar, Sarbjot Singh, Arvind Bhaedwaj, Gagan Kumar, Dele Olayemi and Benneth Egbegi, being crew members in MT Akshay with Ajay Bhatiya (now at large) on or about the 25th day of November, 2012 in Brass, Bayelsa State, within the Jurisdiction of this honourable court, did conspire among yourselves to commit felony to wit; dealing in Petroleum Product and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 3(6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act CAP M17 of the Revised Edition(Laws of the Federation.”

Uwujaren said the court found the first and the two accused persons alongside the owner of the vessel, who was said to be at large, guilty on count one which bordered on conspiracy and convicted them accordingly.

The other accused persons ─ Dharmaraj Kumar, Ajay Kumar, Nimesh Kodi Parambil, Ashraf Ali, Sanjeev Kumar, Sarbjot Singh, Arvind Kumar Bhardwaj, Gagan Kumar, Dele Johnson Olayemi and Benneth Egbegi ─ were discharged and acquitted on the two counts preferred against them by the EFCC.

The court was, however, silent on the vessel, and its content.

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