January 13, 2018
By John Geddie
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – A Singapore court on Saturday charged three men suspected of involvement in large-scale oil theft at Shell’s biggest refinery, days after bringing charges against 11 under an extensive probe by authorities in the city state.
The Singapore subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell Plc first contacted the city-state’s authorities in August 2017 about theft at its Pulau Bukom industrial site, just south of the country’s main island.
Police have seized millions of dollars in cash and a small tanker in the sting operation involving simultaneous raids across Singapore.
A Singapore court charged 11 men including eight Shell employees and two Vietnamese nationals on Tuesday related to the theft following a weekend raid arresting 17 people.
The latest three to be charged also included a Vietnamese national. They are accused of receiving stolen property, with a combined value of S$896,444 ($676,510.45), at Pulau Bukom site, where Shell has its largest refinery, according to court documents.
The amount of oil products involved in the theft on two days in late 2017 were in addition to more than 4,300 tonnes of gasoil valued at S$2.4 million specified in charges brought against the 11 on Tuesday.
A Shell spokeswoman said the men charged on Saturday were not employees of the company.
The court documents listed two vessels used in the transfer of stolen oil products on Nov. 11 and Dec. 31 at two wharfs on the Pulau Bukom site.
Sentek 26, which carries a Singapore flag, and MT Gaea have been traveling around the city state over the last 30 days, both making one journey down to the Indonesian island of Batam in late December, Thomson Reuters data shows.
The manager of the ship Sentek 26, Sentek Marine & Trading Pte, was the biggest bunker fuel supplier in Singapore by volume last year, according to official data.
Singapore is one of the world’s most important oil trading hubs, with much of the Middle East’s crude oil passing through before being delivered to the huge consumers in China, Japan and South Korea.
Singapore is also Southeast Asia’s main refinery hub and the world’s biggest marine refueling stop.
Illicit oil trading is widespread in Southeast Asia where stolen fuel is sold across the region, often offloaded directly into trucks or tanks at small harbors away from oil terminals.
(Reporting by John Geddie, additional reporting by Roslan Khasawneh and Florence Tan; Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)