Defense Says American Businesswoman Acted LegallyAP , Associated Press
Jan. 29, 1985 5:12 PM ET
LAGOS, NIGERIA LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) _ The attorney for an American woman who faces a possible death sentence on charges of illegally exporting petroleum products said Tuesday that none of the prosecution witnesses testified to an illegal deal by her.
Opening the defense case in the trial of Marie Lee McBroom, attorney Tunji Olowofeyekwu told a military tribunal that none of the documents recovered by police showed they were to be used in committing any ''illegality.' '
Mrs. McBroom, 59, of Jersey City, N.J., has pleaded innocent to six counts of exporting petroleum products without a license under a decree published in July - five months after her arrest. Her trial before Judge Adebayo Desalu opened Dec. 10.
Faced with the loss of $1 million a day through illegal oil deals, Nigeria's military government said it would execute anyone convicted of trafficking in oil. Nigeria, black Africa's largest oil producer, pumps an estimated 1.3 million barrels a day.
Answering questions from her lawyer, Mrs. McBroom said she registered a company called Palm International Ltd. to engage in legitimate import and export business and act as a commission agent.
During the course of her stay in Nigeria, she testified, she found that some Americans were being duped by agents pretending to help them buy Nigerian crude oil.
Mrs. McBroom said her investigations showed that before anyone succeeded in doing business, they had ''to know somebody who knows someone'' at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp.
She testified that she found she could help prospective foreign buyers of Nigerian crude file applications with the corporation.
This was how she met Celestine Taiwo, who told her he knew someone at the corporation who could help buyers obtain crude oil or motor fuel, she said.
Mrs. McBroom is accused of conspiring with Taiwo of C.O.T. International, based in Port Harcourt, to attempt to deal in 20,000 metric tons of refined fuel without a license.
She testified that Chudi Izegbu, whom she met at her hotel, introduced her to a company called Intercontinental which he said was registered to buy crude oil though it had no allocation at the time.
Under questioning by Judge Desalu, Mrs. McBroom said she introduced some buyers to Taiwo and another Nigerian, Akin Afolabi.
She is also accused of conspiring with Izegbu, representing Texas-based International Consolidated Corp., and Afolabi, representing Queen Pen Oils, to illegally deal in 1.365 million barrels of crude oil.
The prosecution also alleges that between Dec. 31, 1983 and Jan. 21, 1984, Mrs. McBroom conspired with unknown persons to deal in petroleum products and crude oil.
Earlier, defense lawyer Olowofeyekwu said the defense would not call any witnesses or enter any exhibits to support its case. He said none of the statements made by Mrs. McBroom to the police showed any crime committed by her.
The trial resumes Feb. 7 when the defense and prosecution will address the court.