Nine Pirates Convicted in a First of its Kind Trial in West Africa

maritime piracy conviction in Togo West Africa
(file photo)

Published Jul 7, 2021 7:47 PM by The Maritime Executive

In the first trial of its kind, a court in the West African country of Togo convicted and sentenced to jail nine individuals for acts of maritime piracy. The case stemmed from a 2019 incident during which the group boarded a small tanker, robbing the crew before being apprehended by the Togo Navy.

“People should understand that piracy and armed robbery at sea will be punished,” a prosecutor on the case told the court. “For these sea offenses,” he promised, “we will be uncompromising.” The small African nation, located along the troubled Gulf of Guinea, had amended its penal code in 2015 to include acts of maritime piracy. While the pirates were captured in 2019, the prosecution was carried out by a new government that was named in October 2020.

A total of 10 individuals, including seven from Nigeria, two from Togo, and one from Ghana, were charged with maritime piracy, voluntary violence, attempted robbery, and being part of a criminal group. The court found that a Nigerian, Peter Paul, was the mastermind of the group that had attacked the tanker. He was sentenced to 15 years in jail, fined $90,000, and once released from prison he will be banned from Togo for five years.

Six other individuals were found guilty of being part of the group and each was sentenced to 12 years in prison and each fined $45.000. A seventh individual who was from Ghana and escaped custody was found guilty in absentia and sentenced to 20 years in prison along with a $90,000 fine. An international arrest warrant was also issued for this individual. The tenth person who was from Togo was acquitted for unexplained reasons.

The incident began on the night of May 11, 2019, while a 1,433 dwt tanker, the G-Dona 1 was anchored off Lome, Togo. After boarding the vessel, the pirates detained the crew and forced the vessel to sail away from the anchorage. The pirates were searching for the crew’s valuables when the Maritime Operation Center and the Togo Navy in its operation room observed the vessel making erratic movements. A call from the ship’s owners reported that the vessel had been attacked, and a call to the ship received a vague response. The Togo Navy dispatched two patrol boats that intercepted the vessel and using a speedboat the Navy boarded the ship and apprehended the pirates. 

The capture happened approximately 25 nautical miles from the anchorage at Lome on May 12, 2019. The vessel was returned to the anchorage and the crew was reported to be unharmed during the incident.