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Singapore uncovers large oil heist at Shell's biggest refinery

by January 9, 2018 General

By and Gloystein

(Reuters) – Eleven men were charged in a on Tuesday in connection with a large-scale theft at Shell’s biggest refinery, while police said they were investigating six other men arrested in a weekend raid.

Police in the island-state said on Tuesday they had detained 17 men, whose ages ranged from 30 to 63, and seized millions of dollars in cash and a small tanker during their investigations into theft at the Pulau Bukom industrial site, which sits just south of Singapore’s main island.

refining and shipping have contributed significantly to Singapore’s rising wealth during the past decades. But the case underlines the challenges the industry faces in a region that has become a hotspot for illegal trading.

The investigation began after Shell contacted the authorities in August 2017, police said in a release. After “extensive investigations and probes,” the Criminal Investigation Department, and launched a series of simultaneous raids across Singapore, which led to the arrests.

Nine Singaporeans were immediately charged in the theft, of which eight were employees of the subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, documents showed.

Two Vietnamese nationals were charged with receiving stolen goods on a small tanker named Prime South (IMO: 9452804), the documents showed.

Shell confirmed on Tuesday that eight of the 11 men charged were current or former employees at Shell Eastern Petroleum (Pte) Ltd.

Shipping data from Eikon showed the Prime South had been shipping fuel between Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and for the past 30 days.


Tuesday’s cases could be just the first insight into a grander scheme.

The charges seen so far allege three incidents of gasoil theft: on Nov. 21, 2017, of more than 2,322 tonnes valued at S$1.277 million ($958,564.78); and on Jan. 5 and 7 this year of a combined 2,062 tonnes of gasoil, valued at S$1.126 million.

The Vietnamese nationals were charged with receiving gasoil in the early evening hours of Jan. 7, at wharf 5 at the heart of Shell’s operations on Bukom island, the documents show.

Meanwhile, police say the other six men arrested remain under investigation.

During raids on Sunday, police said they seized S$3.05 million in cash and the 12,000-deadweight-tonne tanker. They have also frozen suspects’

Shell said on Tuesday it anticipated “a short delay” in its supply operations at Bukom, its largest wholly owned in the world in terms of crude distillation capacity. It declined to say the total amount of stolen.

It is the second high-profile case of wrongdoing at companies in to hit headlines in recent weeks, after Keppel Corporation Ltd’s rig-building business agreed in December to pay more than $422 million to resolve charges it bribed Brazilian officials.


is one of the world’s most important trading hubs, with much of the Middle East’s passing through before being delivered to the huge consumers in China, and

is also Southeast Asia’s main hub and the world’s biggest marine refuelling stop.

Shell is one of the biggest and longest established foreign investors in Its on can process 500,000 barrels per day.

Illicit trading is widespread in Southeast In some cases, has been illegally siphoned from storage tanks, but there have also been thefts at sea, including whole ships being seized for the cargo.

The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in (ReCAAP) says that siphoning of fuel and at sea in Asia, including through armed robbery and piracy, saw sharp increases between 2011 and 2015.

There has been a modest decline since then, although the organisation said in a quarterly report that theft was still “of concern,” especially in the Sea, off the

The stolen fuel is generally sold across Southeast Asia, offloaded directly into trucks or tanks at small harbours away from terminals.

($1 = 1.3322 dollars)

(Reporting by and Gloystein; Additional reporting by Florence Tan and Fathin Ungku; Editing by Gerry Doyle)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)