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ZENITH BANK IN N150M OIL BUNKERING BOND SAGA: COURT SUMMONS BANK OVER ACCUSED RUSSIANS


According to a federal high court sitting in Lagos, Zenith bank Plc is to appear before the court on the 16th of February, 2016 to come and explain while the bank should not forfeit N150million bond issued to secure the bail of three Russians standing trial before the court.
The three Russians are among fourteen accused foreigners and three Vessels standing trial before the court on five count criminal charge of illegally dealing in petroleum products.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC sometime in June last year arraigned fourteen  foreigners, including seven British citizens, three Russians, three Ukrainian and one Japanese in court for their alleged involvement in massive oil bunkering on Nigerian territorial waters.
Also docked before the Federal High Court on a five count amended charges of conspiracy, unlawful dealing in Petroleum product, and storing petroleum product without lawful authority were three vessels belonging to the foreigners.
The accused persons are: Artur Pakhladzhian, Sergo Abbgarian, Vasily Shkundich, Vitaliy Bilours, Hlarion Teofilo Regipor, Laguta Oleksiy, Cadavis Gerarado, Kretov Andry, Badurian Benjamin, Chepikov Olksan, Naranjo Allian Antero, Patro Christian, Alcayde Joel and Caratiquit Michael Beyan.
While the three vessels involved are: MT Anukt Emerald, Monjasa DMCC, and Glencore Energy UK Limited.
According to the EFCC reports, they committed the offence on February 27, 2015 by conspiring with themselves to commit an offence to wit dealing in Petroleum product without lawful authority or appropriate licence.
The accused foreign nationals were also alleged to have at the same time and place without lawful authority or appropriate licence stored 1,500 Metric Tons of Automated Gas Oil in MT Anuket Emerald's Cargo tank marked3s and 3P while they also stored 3,035 Metric Ton of Low Pour Fuel Oil (LPFO) in tanks Marked 2P, 2S, SP, 4S, P and S.
The offences alleged to have been committed according to the commission are contrary to and punishable under sections 4, 17, 19 (6) of the miscellaneous offences Act and the Petroleum Act Laws of Federation.
They all pleaded not guilty to the charge, their counsel, Babajide Koku then urged the court to grant them bail on self recognition.
Koku submitted that the foreigners were presumed innocent until proven guilty in the eyes of the law, and as such, they deserved to be released on bail.
In his response, EFCC's lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo faulted the application that the accused should be granted bail on self recognition.
According to Oyedepo such judicial favour was not applicable to the accused persons who are not citizens of Nigeria and also not residing in Nigeria.
He prayed the court to attach stringent conditions in the event that the court was minded to grant the accused persons bail, so as to prevent the accused from absconding from the country. 
In a bench ruling Justice Ibrahim Buba granted the accused persons bail in the sum of N50 million each with one surety in like sum.
The surety, according to the judge, must be a resident of Lagos.
Justice Buba also ordered that the accused persons should be remanded in prison custody pending when they would be able to fulfill the bail conditions. 
However, before the court could adjourn the matter,  the accused persons applied for leave to issue a bond of N750 million bank guarantee in order to avoid delay of producing sureties.
The application was granted by the court but with a condition that they must deposit of their traveling passports with EFCC alongside other travelling documents.

Since then EFCC has called its witnesses while the accused persons have also stated their defence, the case was adjourned till today for the adoption of their written addresses to enable the court fix date for judgement, however when the case was mentioned the court was bewildered to be told that three out of the fourteen accused persons namely Artur Pakhladzhian, Vasily Shkundich, and Kretov Andrey have jump bail and absconded, consequently the court ordered Zenith bank Plc who secured the bail of the accused Russians with N50million each  to appear before the court on the 16th February, to come and show cause why the bank should not forfeit N150million used to secure the bail of the accused Russian who are now on the run and escape justice.
      The Presiding Judge Ibrahim Buba also revoked the bail of the twelve remaining accused persons who were present in court and ordered that they should be remanded in prison custody as it was not sure that they too will not abscond.

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