October 16, 2003
Jail, vessel forfeiture for Iraq oil smugglers
After a two day trial, Iraq's Central Criminal Court has convicted two men of smuggling Iraqi diesel fuel out of the country on the tanker Navstar.
The Court's three Iraqi judges sentenced both Mazurenko Mykola, the Navstar captain, and Ivan Soshchenko, the first mate, to serve seven years in prison and pay fines of $2,415,000 (US), equal to three times the value of the smuggled fuel.
If either of the men fails to pay the fine, the sentence calls for him to serve an additional three years in prison.
Mykola and Soshchenko were taken into custody on August 4 when Coalition naval forces seized the Navstar and its 3,500 metric tons of smuggled diesel fuel.
During the trial, the Court heard evidence that in late July and early August, Mykola and Soshchenko arranged for more than 20 smaller vessels to transfer their smuggled diesel fuel onto the Navstar near the Port of Umm Qasr.
"The convictions and firm sentences handed down today by the Central Criminal Court should serve as clear warning to would-be smugglers," said Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, the Coalition Provisional Authority administrator. "The Coalition will continue to protect the Iraqi people's natural resources, so that they can be used for the benefit of all not the self-enrichment of the few."
In addition, the Court today ordered the vessel and smuggled diesel fuel confiscated.
The confiscation order allows Iraq's Ministry of Finance to dispose of the vessel and cargo either through sale or use by the Iraqi government. Proceeds from any sale will be deposited in the Central Bank of Iraq.
"No one is above the law in the new Iraq--be they rich, prominent, influential or foreign," said Hashim Al-Shibli, Iraq's Minister of Justice. "They will face the same justice as everyone else in this nation of laws."
Mykola and Soshchenko both have the right to appeal their convictions to Iraq's Court of Cassation.