25 August 2014, Abuja – Following reports by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) regarding investigation by the United States Government into the alleged sale of stolen crude oil from Nigeria to a Ghana-based company, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has challenged claims by Lashann International Energy Corporation to provide evidence of the commission’s involvement in the said deals.
Lashann International Energy Corporation’s owner, Quincy Sintim, was quoted by WSJ as stating that the company purchases the crude oil from Nigeria legally, stating that: “We have invoices that we paid to EFCC in Nigeria.”
EFCC’s Head of Media and Publicity, Wilson Uwujaren, said: “Let them bring the invoice” claiming they purchase the crude oil from EFCC.
Uwujaren told THISDAY that the commission had already responded to the allegations and that the clarification had been made that at no time did the EFCC enter into sale of crude oil as it “is not an oil marketing company and could not have issued any invoice to any oil trader to lift confiscated crude oil from Nigeria.”
The alleged stolen crude oil was taken from Nigeria where was is shipped from hidden routes within the country to the coast of Ghana. The crude was then shipped to Europe by Saltpond Platform.
To compound the issue, Ajay Bhatia, an Indian national who was convicted and sentenced in Nigeria in absentia to 15 years in jail for oil theft in May had been linked to Saltpond.
He is believed to have made several contacts and trips to the Saltpond facility in Ghana.
Bhatia sentencing in March was as a result of EFCC prosecution where the commission obtained judgment against the Indian in absentia.
The deal also opened a new vista to the protracted case of oil theft in the country.
According to observers, the handling of cases involving oil theft has been shrouded in secrecy given that the status of recovered stolen crude are hardly declared or made known to the public by government officials.
Meanwhile, Managing Director of Fenix Impex Nigeria Limited, Jarret Tenebe, has denied having any business with Saltpond Platform or with Lushann International Energy Corporation.
Tenebe explained that: “We don’t have any business with Saltpond or Lushann International Energy, we don’t sell good crude, what we sell is contaminated crude.
“The current contaminated crude we have is still in storage in Lagos, we only sell the contaminated crude to cement manufacturing companies for the production of cement.”
The company’s MD further stated that: “We have contract with the Ministry of Petroleum in Nembe and Joint Task Force (JTF) and we don’t deal with good crude, we only evacuate the contaminated crude to avoid environmental pollution.”
He said Fenix Impex had no knowledge with Saltpond and Lushann and had never had any business dealing or signed any contract with the two companies.
Fenix Impex’s position, denial added to the controversy and denials by government officials of selling stolen crude oil to companies off the shore of Ghanaian coast.
– This Day