In a landmark case, Togo has become the first West African country to convict and imprison nine individuals for maritime piracy after the attempted hijacking of a tanker ship off the coast of Togo in May 2019.

The mastermind of the attack, Nigerian Peter Paul, was handed a 15-year prison sentence and a fine equivalent to US$90,000. In addition, he has been banned from Togo for five years after his release from prison. Six others were each handed a 12-year sentence and fines of $45,000. One individual remains at large after escaping custody and was sentenced in absentia.

The attempted hijacking took place in the Gulf of Guinea, a 3,500 kilometre stretch of coastline, on the 11th of May 2019. Both the Maritime Operation Center and Togo navy observed the ship making abnormal movements before two navy boats intercepted the vessel and apprehended the hijackers.

Craig de Savoye, Protection Vessels International’s West Africa lead in the region, commented;
“The conviction and sentencing of 9 pirates in Togo demonstrates that piracy is a plague that spans the region. These pirates came from 3 different countries while carrying out an attack in Togo. Piracy is not constrained to one nationality or one maritime jurisdiction. The network of pirates span multiple countries, work in multiple maritime EEZs, and gather information across borders from numerous sources. This sentencing, while great news, also demonstrates that the threat of piracy in the region is complex and deeply embedded, requiring cross-jurisdictional solutions.”

John Justice is DG Risk Group’s CEO;
“We’re seeing significant progress throughout the region as West African nations enhance their maritime security provision. It is imperative that the international community and commercial businesses operating in the region continue to work collaboratively with these nations to curb maritime piracy and ensure the safety of life, cargo and vessels in the Gulf of Guinea.”

The Gulf of Guinea has become a hotbed for piracy, with nearly 100 attacks taking place in 2019. An International Maritime Bureau report noted that all 40 instances of crew kidnapping took place there in the first quarter of 2021.