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Crude theft: 26 MT Heroic Idun crew members plead guilty

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The Nigerian Navy has disclosed that Motor Tanker (MT) Heroic Idun and its 26 foreign crew have pleaded guilty and have elected to enter into a plea bargain with the Federal Government of Nigeria. According to Commodore Adedotun Ayo-Vaughan, the Director of Information Naval Headquarters, the release of MT Heroic Idun is subject to the fulfilment of all conditions of the plea bargain to the satisfaction of the Federal High Court.

MT Heroic Idun is a Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) with an overall length of 336-metres, 60 metres breadth, and a carrying capacity of 3 million barrels. It is registered in Marshall Island and has an IMO number of 9858058.

The vessel entered the Nigerian Maritime Environment (NME) on August 7, 2022, and headed for Akpo Field without any form of authorization or clearance. The vessel’s captain refused Navy ship’s order to proceed to Bonny Anchorage to await her NNPCL papers, but rather proceeded at top speed towards the Nigeria/Sao Tome Joint Development Zone. The vessel also raised a false pirates attack by reporting its encounter with NNS GONGOLA to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), which was later refuted.

The Nigerian Navy’s Maritime Domain Awareness system tracked MT Heroic Idun and the ship was eventually arrested by the Equatorial Guinean authorities based on a formal request by the Nigerian Navy under the Yaoundé code of conduct. The vessel was transferred back to Nigeria on November 12, 2022. The Nigerian Navy approached the Attorney General of the Federation/ Minister of Justice and the ship and crew were charged to court at the Federal High Court on January 10, 2023, in Port Harcourt.

It is noteworthy that MT Heroic Idun and its 26 foreign crew pleaded guilty and elected voluntarily to enter into a plea bargain agreement with the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as well as make restitution to the Federal Government. This plea bargain was made in the interest of justice, the public, and for public policy interest. The owners of MT Heroic Idun made the plea agreement after due consultations in line with Section 270 (5) (a) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.

After the conviction and sentencing by the court in line with the agreed terms, MT Heroic Idun and its owners are to pay fines to the Federal Government and make an apology to the Federal Republic of Nigeria in print and electronic media as well as Llyod’s list. The Federal Government agreed not to further criminally prosecute and/or investigate the vessel, her owners, charterers, or her crew in the matter of her crime against the state.

According to the Director of Information Naval Headquarters, an unbiased analysis of the whole MT Heroic Idun saga would educate mischief makers and uninformed hypocritical sympathizers that the vessel’s presence in NME on August 7, 2022, was not just suspicious but with apparent intent to commit a grave crime against the nation. He dismissed reports that the vessel has been released while assuring Nigerians that the Nigerian Navy will sustain a posture of zero tolerance to crude oil theft and other criminal activities in NME.

The Navy shall continue to work in synergy with other maritime stakeholders, navies of the Gulf of Guinea states, and strategic partners of Nigeria to ensure that Nigeria derives maximum benefit from its natural resources in the maritime area. The Service will not be deterred from its unwavering commitment to the dutiful fulfilment of its constitutional mandate

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