Economic Sabotage: Two Britons, 12 Nigerian Accomplices Held Over Illegal Crude Oil Siphon-At least two Britons and 12 Nigerian accomplices have been held over attempts to siphon huge amount of crude oil from the country as operatives of the Joint Task Force uncovered a strong cartel of economic saboteurs in the Niger Delta. In an instance, a sum of $60000 was offered as passage freak payment which officers of JTF received and kept as evidence of attempts to bribe the officers.
The arrest followed a tip-off from members of the public as a Joint Task Force intensified efforts in the new anti economic sabotage effort code named Operation Pulo Shield.
The arrested Britons and their Nigerian accomplices who are technicians in the Niger Delta creek were arrested over their alleged involvement in illegal bunkering along the Chanomi Creek in a Niger Delta’s area called western delta.
In the ensued arrest, the suspects attempted to offer officers of the JTF a back-hander of a sum of $66,500 in order to create safe passage for them to carry out their anti Nigerian economy siphoning of crude oil into their barges which were provided from a Shell Petroleum Development Company pipeline along the Chanomi creek in Delta State. But the offer was rejected.
The names of the two Britons arrested were identified as Messrs Piers Eastwood and Vincent Haywood who were both attached to a United Kingdom based maritime security firm. The firm has a regional branch in Lagos, according to sources fromthe JTF.
The are part of the security/consultancy team to provide safe passage for MT Crete, a vessel believed to have been positioned at Brass open waters usually engaging in illegal carting out of the country of crude oil. The history of illegal bunkering engaged by the vessel are being investigated by JTF.
According to sources, the suspects were apprehended on March 17 after a representative of a foreign base firm (name withheld) approached the JTF Headquarters, with an so called approval letter from the Nigerian Navy Ship Delta, which was said to have obtained authority from the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation NNPC through the Naval Headquarters.
The approval, according to sources close to Saturday Vanguard learnt, was to allow for the evacuation of oil products from an arrested vessel under the custody of the Nigeria Navy at NNS DELTA between 12 March -14 April 2014.
The Joint Task Force to foster their investigation approved the release with the and the headquarters directed Sector 1 of the special security outfit to monitor their activities in the waterways. The efforts paid well as the joint task force later identified the nefarious activities of the arrested criminals.
Speaking to newsmen on Friday, at the headquarters of the JTF in Yenagoa where the suspects were paraded, the commander of the outfit, Major General Emmanuel Atewe who was represented by the Media Coordinator, JMCC Col Onyema Nwachukwu said they were arrested by operatives of the task force as part of ongoing effort to combat the menace of crude oil theft and other sundry crimes in the region.
According to him, “the Operations officer of 3 Battalion discovered through their confession that their intention was to hack into one of SPDC pipelines in Chanomi creek, Warri Delta State and siphon crude oil.
The criminals offered an initial payment of a bribe in the sum of $5,000 for recharge card and $1500 to fuel a gunboat that will escort the stolen crude oil.”
According to him, they requested the Operations Officer of 3 Battalion to facilitate a meeting with the Commander 4 Brigade, Brig Gen Fidelis Azinta.
“The meeting was convened as a bait on March 20, 2014 at the Brigade Commander’s office. During the meeting, the suspects expressed their desire to connect a hose to SPDC pipeline along the Chanomi creek in Delta State so as to illegally siphon crude oil into barges.
”While in the Brigade Commander’s office, they promised to bribe the Brigade’s Commander, with the sum of N20m as well as take care of the officers and soldiers along the Chanomi creek.
”On 21 March 2014, one of the suspects brought to the Brigade Commander $60,000 which translates to N10m being 50 per cent of the N20m promised. The suspects were immediately arrested for attempting to bribe the Brigade Commander for economic sabotage.
”Twelve technicians who were to connect the hoses to facilitate the theft and their implements were also arrested.”
He added that a follow up operation subsequently led to the arrest of two Britons, who were in company of seven Nigeria policemen led by an inspector.
The two Britons, according to the JTF commander were security consultants from a United Kingdom- based port maritime security firm with regional branch in Lagos.
”The two flew into Lagos on 20 March and left for Port Harcourt same day where they met with a Nigerian (one Bello) who was supposed to be their point of contact. The two Britons were to provide security escort/consultancy to MT Crete, a vessel believed to have been positioned at Brass open waters for suspected illegal oil bunkering”.
Gen Awete revealed that all the suspects and exhibits were transferred to JTF headquarters on March 23 for further investigation adding that a joint investigation team was immediately constituted to carry out a preliminary investigation where all the suspects and witnesses were invited and also examined the exhibits, documents and equipment recovered.
This include, the sixty thousand dollars offered to Brig Gen Azinta, the six thousand five hundred dollars offered to Capt M Abdullahi which were displayed to newsmen.
The suspects were later handed over to the Department of State Security for prosecution.