A FEDERAL High Court sitting in Lagos has sentenced 15 oil thieves to three years imprisonment.
The court also forfeited two vessels used by the convicts and their combined 868.5 metric tonnes of crude oil to the Federal Government.
Justice Rilwan Aikawa further imposed a fine of N600,000 on each convict aboard the vessel MT Zeebrugge (a vessel) and 900,000 on each convict aboard the second vessel MV Ekpere Amaka.
Justice Aikawa sentenced the men yesterday after finding them guilty on all three counts.
He sentenced each man to one year in prison on each count. The sentence will take effect from the day of their arrest, the judge said.
The convicts are: MT Zeebrugge, Kapilarathana A.J, Yapa, Ramanayaka Appuhamilage Maithripala, Labunu Hewage Udayanga Silva, Shashika Yomal Palipana, Amarasinge Arachchige Dasman Chaml, Kariyawasan Wijewardbana and Joseph Felsianus Fernando.
Others are: MV Ekpere Amaka, Eliaja Agoso, Assayomo Julius, Godwin Ajimosun, Jerome Nwaobi, Ukpe Wisdom, Bayonle-Jude Olawunmi, Vincent Antai and John Zola.
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They were arraigned on three counts of illegal dealing in petroleum products on March 4, 2020.
Each defendant pleaded “not guilty”.
During Monday’s proceedings, defence counsel Paul Ejiga told the court that the defendants intended to change their pleas.
The charge was re-read and all defendants pleaded “guilty” to the charge.
EFCC counsel Rotimi Oyedepo, who did not oppose the application, called two witnesses and tendered documents in furtherance of the charge.
One of the witnesses, an EFCC operative Moses AWOLUSI, told the court that last December 23, the Commission was notified by the Nigerian Navy, NNS Beecroft, of the arrest of seven oil thieves and a vessel, MT Zeebrugge.
He said: “They were arrested on December 12, 2019 with 838.5 metric tons of crude oil on board the vessel.”