Bunkering Company and Staff Charged with Cheating and Disguising the Benefits of Criminal Conduct
Singapore is one of the largest and most important bunkering ports in the world. Fraudulent transactions in the bunkering industry, like short-supply and buy-back of bunker fuel, can be lucrative business for the errant players. There is, therefore, a strong need to deter illegal activities to safeguard Singapore’s reputation as a premier bunkering destination.
2. On 16 November 2017, the company, Vermont UM Bunkering Pte Ltd (Vermont Bunkering), two of its directors (Poh Fu Tek and Koh Seng Lee) and one former bunker manager (Lee Kok Leong) will each be charged in court for cheating and criminal breach of trust offences under the Penal Code, as summarized in the table below. Through these alleged fraudulent transactions, Vermont Bunkering had dishonestly induced its customers to make excess payments totaling over US$8 million.
|Penal Code Offences|
|1. Vermont UM Bunkering Pte Ltd||
(a) 150 counts of engaging in a conspiracy to cheat customers of Vermont Bunkering by delivering invoices indicating a higher quantity of marine fuel had been delivered when in fact a lower quantity was delivered. As a result, these customers were dishonestly induced to make excess payments to Vermont Bunkering. All these constituted offences punishable under section 420 read with section 109 of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed).
(b) 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, an offence punishable under section 406 read with section 109 of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed).
|2. Poh Fu Tek, 58 years old, Singaporean (Director of Vermont Bunkering)|
|3. Koh Seng Lee, 56 years old, Singaporean (Director of Vermont Bunkering)|
|4. Lee Kok Leong, 52 years old, Singaporean (Former Bunker Manager of Vermont Bunkering)|
3. In addition to the above, Vermont Bunkering and Poh Fu Tek will each be 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. These constituted offences under Section 47(1)(a) and punishable under Section 47(6) of the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act [CDSA] (Cap 65A) read with Section 109 of the Penal Code (Cap 224).
4. This is the first time a company (i.e. legal person) will be prosecuted for offences under the CDSA. An individual who commits an offence under section 47 of the CDSA shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $500,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or to both; if the person is not an individual, a higher fine not exceeding $1 million may be imposed.
5. 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. As a result, Vermont Bunkering was dishonestly induced to pay a larger sum for the marine fuel. These constituted an offence under section 120A and punishable under section 120B of the Penal Code.
6. CPIB had worked with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) on this case and received valuable assistance from them.
7. Singapore adopts a zero tolerance approach towards corruption and criminal activities. The CPIB takes a serious view of any corrupt and criminal practices, and will not hesitate to take action against any party involved in such acts.
Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau