The Federal government has formally released and handed over MT Heroic Idun, a Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) to its owners, Idun Maritime Limited after fulfilling all conditions of the plea bargain entered between them and the Nigerian government.
Naval spokesman, Commodore Adedotun Ayo-Vaughan who disclosed this in a statement said the VLCC was released on Saturday, May 27th with the consent of the court. Recall that MT Heroic Idun and her 26 foreign crew were arrested by the Nigerian Navy and convicted in court and fined $15million after a failed attempt to steal Nigeria’s crude oil in August 2022.
MT Heroic Idun and her 26 foreign crew had 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.
“The plea bargain was in the interest of justice, the public and for public policy interest in line with Section 270 (5) (a) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.
Accordingly, after the conviction of MT HEROIC IDUN and sentencing by the Court, in line with the agreed terms, the MT HEROIC IDUN and its owners were to pay conviction fines and restitution 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. “On its part, 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. All these being the conditions of the plea bargain without which the VLCC and its crew would not be released. “Accordingly, the owners of the vessel apologized to the Federal government on the LLOYDS List on 12 May 2023 and same apology was published in the Punch Newspaper Page 27 of 18 May 2023. “The vessel regretted the false pirate attack alarm she raised on 7 August 2023 which was in clear defiance of the State being that she disobeyed the orders of Nigerian Navy Ship GONGOLA after an attempt to load crude oil without appropriate approvals from NNPCL and the necessary security clearance. The subsequent transfer of the ship from Equatorial Guinea after she had escaped Nigerian waters and her prosecution under the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act, 2019 further demonstrates the Nigerian Navy’s practical commitment to ensure that only valid and authorized vessels are allowed to carry out export of crude oil or gas at the various oil terminals and this is with a view to enhancing energy security governance in the country for improved national prosperity as directed by the FGN.