BY INNOCENT ANABA
LAGOS— Fifteen Russian sailors charged with alleged unlawful importation of arms to Nigeria, before a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, were, yesterday, released to the Russian Ambassador in Nigeria, as part of the bail condition.
Trial judge, Justice Okechikwu Okeke, who granted bail to the accused persons, also admitted to bail, the vessel they were arrested on board, MV Myre Seadiver in a bond of $500,000 to be obtained from First Bank Plc.
The accused Zhelyazkov Andrey, Savchenko Sergel, Chichkanov Vasily, Varlygin Igor, Komilov Alexander, Lopatin Alexey and Baranovskly Nikolay, Mishin Pavel, Llia Shubov, Dimitry Bannyrh, Alexander Tsarikov, Kononov Sergel, Korotchenko Andrey, Vorobev Mikhail, and Stepan Oleksiuk, are charged together with their vessel, on four-count charge of alleged unlawful importation and possession of firearms, as well as non-declaration of the content of the vessel.
They pleaded not guilty to the charge.
The accused, yesterday, argued their bail application, which was not opposed by the prosecution, though the court asked the prosecution to state the conditions under which the defendants should be admitted to bail.
After listening to argument of parties, Justice Okeke ordered that the defendants be released on bail to the Russian Ambassador in Nigeria, who will produce them from time to time in court.
The judge also asked the Russian Consul Officer, Mr Radomir Ganich, to choose a bank from which the bond would be obtained and gave three options of First Bank, Zenith Bank and Guarantee Trust Bank, but the Consul Officer chose First Bank.
The judge ruled that the bond be obtained from First Bank and adjourned the case till April 10 for hearing.
The accused and their vessel were arrested by Naval officers on October 18, 2012, within the Nigerian territorial waters, in LagosState, as they entered the Nigerian territorial waters without due licence and clearance from the Nigerian Customs Service.
The accused were said to have refused to declare the content of the vessel contrary to the provisions of the Customs and Excise Management Act, 2002.
The prosecution said that when the vessel was arrested and opened by the Naval officers, a cache of firearms and ammunitions was discovered concealed in it, and the accused were arrested together with the vessel for contravening the provisions of the Firearms Act, Cap F28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, as well as the provisions of the Miscellanous Offence Act, Cap M17 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.