The Nigerian Navy (NN) Thursday handed over nine suspected pirates, comprising three Greeks, an American and five Nigerians to the Interpol unit of the Nigeria Police for allegedly possessing firearms and suspected crude oil within the Nigerian maritime domain.
The Officer in Tactical Command (OTC), Commodore Dickson Olisemenogor, handed over the suspects at the Nigeria Navy Ship (NNS) BEECROFT parade ground in Apapa, Lagos.
The suspects and their vessel, Sea Angel 3, were arrested within the western waters during a joint operation codenamed Junction Rain, which was undertaken by the NN and the United States Navy.
The vessel was arrested for illegal possession of firearms and suspected crude oil theft by NNS CENTENARY.
The Greeks were identified as Angelopolous Spyridon, 54; Kappis Christos, 57, and Petropoulos Stylianos, 34, while the American was identified as Zanski Michael-Anderson, 50.
Also recovered were four Bernelli MI-1 rifles, over 1,000 ammunition and other military gadgets.
Meanwhile, a discharge document was also recovered onboard the boat having the name, signature and details of Michael-Anderson but with another photograph.
Addressing journalists at the handing over ceremony, the OTC said the objective of the operation was to carry out maritime law enforcement operations at sea.
According to him, “Before now, we go out there to make arrest and we hand them over to relevant agencies, but the activities of these criminals have continued unabated.
“So this time, we made a detailed search and interrogation of ships at sea. Within the period of the operation, we interrogated over 100 ships; we boarded over 40 of them, and in the process of boarding these vessels, one was suspected to be carrying out illegal activities on our waters.
“When we interrogated the captain and crew members of the ship, they made us believe that there were only five Nigerians on board. The boat was painted in navy colour which aroused our suspicions more.
“They did not switch on their electronic gadget at sea, which would indicate their position as stipulated by the International Maritime Organisation, so this attracted our attention.
“We boarded the ship and discovered that there were more than five persons on board. There were five Nigerians, three Greeks and an American.
“Further search on the boat reviewed that they had four MI riffles that can be used to do anything at sea, and over 1,000 rounds of ammunition with them and various military kits.
“We don’t know what they were doing on our waters. We are handing over the suspects, exhibits and the boats to the Nigerian Police. They will further investigation and prosecute the suspects.”
After receiving the suspects, vessel and weapons, Interpol Lagos boss, Tunji Akingbola, a Deputy Commissioner of Police, said investigation would commence immediately.
Also on ground were personnel from the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), whose duty was to verify the immigration status of the four foreigners.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian crew alleged that they were merely hired to provide necessities to their vessel, and as such, had no idea that the foreigners had illegal weapons.