Three Russians accused of oil theft jump bail

Three Russians who are among the 14 foreigners accused of dealing in crude oil without licence have jumped bail, the Federal High Court in Lagos was told on Monday.

Justice Ibrahim Buba issued a bench warrant for their arrest. 

He also revoked the bail granted the other accused persons.

The judge ordered Zenith Bank Plc, which provided a bank guarantee for the bail granted the accused persons for N50million each, to appear to show cause why the sum will not be forfeited.

Among the accused are Russians, Ukrainians, Japanese and English, namely Artur Pakhladzhian, Sergo Abbgarian, Vasily Shkundich, vitaliy Bilours, Hlarion Regipor, Laguta Oleksiy, Cadavis Gerarado, Kretov Andry, Badurian Benjamin, Chepikov Olksan, Naranjo Antero, Patro Christian, Alcayde Joel and Caratiquit Beyan.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) charged them after the Navy arrested them on March 27, 2015 when it intercepted their vessel, MT Anukpet Emerald.

The vessel was laden with crude oil estimated at 1,738.087 metric tons.

Parties were to adopt their written addresses yesterday, but defence counsel Babajide Koku (SAN) said the fourth, sixth and 11th defendants could not be found.

He said he contacted the Russian Embassy, but was told that it did not know the accused persons’ whereabouts.

“As we speak, I do not know the whereabouts of the three. And it’s highly embarrassing to say this, my lord,” Koku said.

The EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, prayed the court to order their arrest and to revoke the bail granted the others. 

Koku said, “The application for their arrest is definitely meritorious to secure their attendance.”

He, however, pleaded the sins of the three Russians should not be visited on the others by revoking their bail.

Ruling, Justice Buba held that since the three who jumped bail were the leaders of the crew, not revoking the others’ bail would be risky.

He, therefore, cancelled the bail granted the others and ordered that all the accused persons be remanded in prison custody.

Justice Buba said Zenith Bank should explain why it should not lose the N150million bail granted the three accused persons who have fled.

The prosecution said they violated Section 4 of the Petroleum Act, Cap10 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.

EFCC said the offence also contravened Section 19(6) of the Miscellaneous Offence Act of 2004 and punishable under section 1(17) of the same Act.

The defendants had pleaded not guilty to the four counts when they were arraigned and were granted N50million bail each. 

The foreigners were also charged with dealing in 1,500 metric tons of Automated Gas Oil as well as 3,035 metric tons of Low Pour Fuel Oil without lawful authority.

Justice Buba adjourned till February 16. 



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