By Samuel Oyadongha
Yenagoa—A Federal High Court sitting in Yenegoa, Bayelsa State, has sentenced to 15 years imprisonment, three Indian nationals, over their involvement in illegal oil theft on the waterways of Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
The three convicts are Sahleh Kumar Singh, (Captain of the vessel), Chadrashekar Sharma and Ajay Bhatiya, owner of the vessel MT Akshay, still at large.
The convicts were arrested by men of the Nigerian Navy aboard a ship MT Akshay formerly known as Wine Trader owned by Krishna Shipping Inc, Mainstream Charlestown Nevis and operated by Veesham Shipping Inc., a tanker crew of 10 Indians and two Nigerians and 157,822 litres of product suspected to be stolen crude oil.
The tanker was also alleged not to have been listed in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Tanker Nomination Schedule and did not have Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, Bunkering Permit nor the Joint Task Force, JFT, Operation Pulo Shield certificate of registration for vessels engaged in the movement of crude oil.
The convicted Indians, who were among 12 suspected oil thieves, including eight other Indians, one Ghanaian and a Nigerian arrested aboard MT Akshay were prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
According to EFCC’s Head of Media and Publicity, Mr.Wilson Uwajeren, the Indian nationals were arraigned on a two-count charge on January 22, 2013 before Justice Lambo Akanbi.
Justice Akanbi, in his judgment, found the first two accused persons alongside the owner of the vessel (who is still at large) guilty on count one which borders 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.
However, the court was silent on the vessel, and it’s content.