by Samuel OYADONGHA
Yenagoa-The Joint Task Force has smashed yet another syndicate with international connection that specializes in lifting stolen Nigerian crude following the interception of a vessel laden with crude oil on the Brass fringe of the Atlantic Ocean.
The seized vessel owned by a Greek firm, Blossom S.A was carrying 800 metric tonnes of crude oil allegedly stolen from a facility operated by the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC).
An Asian, identified as Mr. Minzaw Tinmaungyaw from Myanmar was nabbed on board the vessel, MT Glory.
The vessel according to a security source was intercepted at about midnight March 31, by men of the Joint Task Force along the Lagogbene community of Brass in the Bayelsa East senatorial zone Aside the Myanmaris national that was arrested by security operatives on board the vessel the other crew members reportedly dived into the sea and escaped.
The seized vessel sources told Vanguard was a courier to a larger vessel with over twenty-five crew of Myanmaris nationals on board floating outside the nation’s territorial waters waiting for the stolen crude.
It was also learnt that a Nigerian link with the seized vessel had made a N2m bid for the release of the suspect and the vessel which was rebuffed and that the authorities are on the trail of those involved in the attempted bribe.
The coordinator of the Joint Media Centre of the JTF, Lt. Col. Timothy Antigha who confirmed the incident to newsmen said the arrest has further shown the resolve of the Federal Government to put a stop to the cases of illegal bunkering activities along its territorial waters.
Though he said the vessel has the capacity to load over 2,000 metric tones of crude oil, over 800 metric tones had been loaded before it was intercepted.
â€œAll we have done is to conclude our report on the arrest and it will be forwarded to the appropriate authority for further action,â€ he said.
Antigha noted that the JTF will also hand over the arrested vessel to the authority of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) for investigation and prosecution of the suspects.
The arrested Myanmaris, Minzaw Tinmaungyaw confirmed the illegal loading of the crude oil but denied any involvement in the act saying he was only a passenger on board the seized vessel.