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General News of Friday, 22 February 2008

Source: Statesman

Crude oil worth $7m missing

- 4 arrested, one on the run
Four Filipinos are in police custody for allegedly stealing 73,900 barrels of crude oil worth $7million belonging to the Saltpond Offshore Producing Company Limited. They were arrested on February 6 in Nigeria and brought to Ghana for prosecution.
The four, Ileofonso Pagey Pama, Engineer, Felix Borre Climaco, Seaman, Leonardo Planes Abrenica, Captain and Danilo Begasot Bueno, Captain, are said to be crew of the vessel MT Emerald. A fifth person, Epifanio Moran Jnr is at large.
The facts of the case are that the complainant, Quincy Sintim Aboagye, is the Chief Executive Officer of Saltpond Offshore Oil Company Limited and the accused persons are sailors.
In November, 2007, Saltpond Offshore Oil Company Ltd contracted the vessel MT Emerald through their agents, NEPS in Nigeria, to convey 73,900 barrels of crude oil from the company's base at Saltpond and discharge same at Tema Oil Refinery in Tema.
The crude oil was loaded on the vessel MT Emarald and it set sail from Saltpond under the command of Captain Epifiano, who is at large, with the other accused persons as crew on the vessel.
On December 9 the accused persons sailed the vessel out of Ghana's territorial waters and went away with the crude oil. A report was made to Interpol Ghana who with the assistance of their counterpart Interpol Nigeria arrested the accused persons in Lagos.
Investigations are underway and the crude oil yet to be retrieved.
But Counsel for the accused persons, Musah Ahmed, is challenging the authority of the police to hold his clients in detention, describing it as "kidnapping and hostage taking". He has therefore filed a writ at the Fast Tract Court to compel the police to arraign his clients or discharge them.
However, on February 19 the Attorney General’s Department also took the same case to the Regional Tribunal but where challenged by the defence that the case is before the FTC.
At the Regional Tribunal, Mr Ahmed had alleged that his clients have been detained illegally by the police for two weeks without food. He said his clients who were arrested in Nigeria and arraigned before a court there were brought to Ghana without the permission of the court in Nigeria.
He further held that his clients were not crew of the vessel MT Emerald but rather a sister vessel. He explained that although it is common to arrest a sister vessel of an offending vessel, the crew are not included unless they are believed to have committed another offence. According to him, no order has been obtained by the police to detain his clients.
Yesterday when the case was called, the AG’s department told the Court that they were short served with the order of habeas corpus.
The case has been adjourned to February 26.

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