Seven men held after oil tanker ‘hijacking’ to face no further criminal action

Seven men detained by special forces after the suspected hijacking of an oil tanker off the Isle of Wight will face no further criminal prosecution, police have announced.

The men, all from Nigeria, were detained by the British Special Boat Service (SBS) after an incident on board the Nave Andromeda on Sunday October 25.

Two men, Matthew John Okorie, 25, and Sunday Sylvester, 22, had already been charged with an offence relating to conduct endangering ships under Section 58 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.

Nave Andromeda incident
The Nave Andromeda oil tanker docked next to the Queen Elizabeth II Cruise Terminal in Southampton (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Now, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has decided there is insufficient evidence to continue the case or to charge the other five men detained.

Senior District Crown Prosecutor Sophie Stevens said: “The CPS has a duty to keep all cases under continuous review and, after additional maritime expert evidence came to light, we concluded there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction and discontinued the case.”

A Hampshire Police spokesman said the seven men would remain detained subject to immigration procedures.

He said: “We can confirm that seven men, including two men who had previously been charged and who had appeared in court, will now face no further action as part of the Hampshire Constabulary-led investigation into the maritime security incident that took place on board the Nave Andromeda off the coast of the Isle of Wight on Sunday October 25.

“The two men, Matthew John Okorie, 25, and Sunday Sylvester, 22, who were remanded and next due to appear at Southampton Crown Court on January 29 2021, will now face no further action for an offence relating to conduct endangering ships under Section 58 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.

7 men, inc 2 men who had previously been charged, will now face no further action as part of the investigation into the maritime security incident on board the Nave Andromeda off the #IsleOfWight in Oct. Read more: https://t.co/D9Hjn5IAbKpic.twitter.com/lzLQOLfCio

— Hampshire Police (@HantsPolice) January 8, 2021

“This decision was taken by the Crown Prosecution Service after additional evidence came to light as part of the investigation.

“Five other men, who were arrested on suspicion of seizing or exercising control of a ship by use of threats or force, remained on police bail until January 25 2021.

“They will also now face no further action in relation to the Hampshire Constabulary-led investigation.

“They will remain detained under immigration powers in accordance with published processes.”

Nave Andromeda incident
The Nave Andromeda oil tanker during the incident off the coast of the Isle of Wight (Steve Parsons/PA)

The SBS raid was authorised by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Priti Patel following a 10-hour stand-off while the tanker remained off the Isle of Wight.

The 748ft (228m) Nave Andromeda had been heading towards Southampton, having set sail from Lagos in Nigeria.

The ship’s operator, Navios Tanker Management, said the stowaways “illegally boarded” the Liberian-flagged tanker in Lagos.

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