Singapore’s bunkering company, and three of its executives, have been charged with cheating and criminal breach as part of the country’s strict measures on deliveries of bunkering fuel.
The company, Vermont Bunkering, its directors Poh Fu Tek and Koh Seng Lee, and the former bunker manager Lee Kok Leong, were charged on November 16, 2017, according to Singapore’s Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).
CPIB said that the company was in breach of trust offences under the Penal Code, including 150 counts of engaging in a conspiracy to cheat customers by delivering invoices indicating a higher quantity of marine fuel had been delivered, as well as one count of engaging in a conspiracy to commit criminal breach of trust by dishonestly misappropriating approximately 250 metric tons of marine fuel oil entrusted to Vermont Bunkering.
CPIB informed that, through the alleged fraudulent transactions, Vermont Bunkering had induced its customers to make excess payments totaling over USD 8 million.
In addition, Vermont Bunkering and Poh Fu Tek were charged with 18 counts of abetment by engaging in a conspiracy to disguise property representing benefits from criminal conduct. This was done using invoices falsely purporting that various quantities of fuel oil had been sold to Vermont Bunkering.
In connection with this case, Lee Kok Leong, together with former cargo officers of Vermont Bunkering Lee Peck Yong and Loh Cheok San, were each charged in court on 10 October 2017 with one count of criminal conspiracy to commit cheating by deceiving Vermont Bunkering into paying them even larger commissions than the sum being used to facilitate the illegal marine fuel oil buy-back transactions.
CPIB said this was the first time that a company would be prosecuted for offences under the Act. If convicted, an individual faces a maximum fine of USD 500,000, or up to 10 years prison, or both, while a company faces a fine up to USD 1 million.
Singapore’s Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) revoked the bunker supplier and bunker craft operator licences of Vermont Bunkering in late April 2016.
MPA’s checks conducted on the company in 2016 revealed discrepancies and wrongful declarations in the records kept on board bunker tankers. There were also separate incidences of transfers of bunkers between bunker tankers that were conducted without MPA’s approval.