This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria: Iranian Arms Deal - 'I Didn't Know the Content of the Consignment'

An Iranian national, Azim Aghajani who is on trial over the alleged illegal importation of firearms and ammunitions into the country Friday told a Federal High Court, Lagos that he did not know the true contents of the consignments.

Led in evidence by the defence counsel Mr. Gordy Uche of Chief Chris Uche (SAN) chambers, Abuja, Aghajani explained that he was introduced by his friend Ismail Seifian to one Mr Masood Behineh in Tehran, Iran who contracted him to help his company known as Behineh Trading Company to ship a 13 container load of building materials to Gambia through Nigeria since there are no direct shipping line to Gambia.

He said: "They (Seifian and Behineh) told me that they have accepted to send the consignment to the nearest destination which is Lagos Nigeria. Then Mr Behineh told me that they have already sent the container. He added it was between 10 and 12 days that the container had been in Lagos. They needed my services because of my good command of English and wanted me to hurry up to Nigeria because the containers were accumulating demurrage," he stated.

He also said one Muhammed Tukur helped him to processes the documents for trans-shipment to Gambia, adding that he discovered that the Shipping company had left in the bill of laden the column for final destination blank and wrote Lagos, Nigeria as Port of discharge against the advice of Behineh.

According to him, there were errors in the names of Alhaji Ali Abass Usman Jega as his names were printed differently in both bill of lading and the manifest.

The trial judge, Justice Okechukwu Okeke adjourned till January 9, 10, and 11, 2013 for continuation of evidence.

The defence had earlier opened its case with a witness, an official of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Bavharan Mohsen testifying that the imported arms and ammunition was not meant for Nigeria but the Gambia.

He said that the arms were meant to be transported to the Gambia government for use by their military, but was only shipped through Nigeria as a transit point, since there was no direct ship from Iranian Port to Banjul, Gambia.

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