Four Ukrainians charged with illegal oil bunkering by the Federal Government have been discharged and acquitted by a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Justice Adamu Turaki Mohammed cleared the four men – Vaskov Andriy, Garchev Mykhaylo, Shulga Vladyslav, Orlovkyi Lyvan – and a ship, MT. San Pedro PIO, after finding them not guilty of the charges preferred against them.
The judge held that there was no evidence that they broke the law. He ordered that the vessel, which was seized, be released forthwith.
The government arraigned the Ukrainians on March 21, 2019, on a two-count charge.
The charge was amended on May 3, 2019, to six counts of conspiracy to deal in petroleum products, dealing in petroleum products, making false documents and uttering contrary to sections 3(6) and 1(17)(a), 1 (2)(c) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, 2007.
Each defendant pleaded not guilty.
According to the prosecution, MT San Padre Pio and a 16 all-male crew members were arrested by the Nigerian Navy in September 2018.
They were accused of illegally transporting five million litres of diesel without permit from Nigerian authorities.
The prosecution claimed that the vessel anchored around Odudu Oil Field, Rivers, and waited to discharge the petroleum product to smaller vessels before it was caught by a naval patrol team.
The government made its allegations through its counsel, Samuel Chime. It also called nine witnesses and tendered several exhibits.
The defendants disputed the allegations through their counsel, Babajide Koku SAN.
Koku contended that the government’s case was baseless because the defendants had obtained appropriate authorisation for its operations.
Delivering judgment on November 28, 2019, Justice Mohammed upheld Koku’s argument and said the government failed to prove its case.
The judge held: “…and by virtue of the sale agreement between AUGUST A Energy and ANOSYKE Group of Companies, the amended purchase order… together with evidence of PW6 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 has shown that Naval approval was obtained in respect of Exhibit J, 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 and the DPR permit, that the company in whose favour the approvals were granted is ANOSYKE Group of Companies.”