SINGAPORE – A former tanker captain linked to the largest gas oil theft that Singapore has ever seen has admitted to his role in the crime.
The Straits Times had earlier reported that 340,000 tonnes of gas oil worth over $200 million had been stolen over the years since 2014 from Shell’s refinery in Pulau Bukom, the largest petrochemical production and export centre in the Asia-Pacific region.
Nguyen Duc Quang, 48, received misappropriated gas oil worth more than US$7.3million (S$9.8 million) in all.
The 48-year-old Vietnamese man pleaded guilty on Friday (Jan 3) to six counts of abetting to dishonestly receive stolen property involving more than US$4.5 million.
Six other similar charges linked to the remaining amount will be considered during sentencing. He committed the offences between 2016 and 2018.
Two other Vietnamese men had earlier been dealt with in court over their roles in the crime. Doan Xuan Than, 47, was sentenced last month to 5½ years’ jail while Dang Van Hanh, 38, was ordered to spend 2½ years behind bars in July last year.
The cases involving other alleged offenders, including 11 former Shell employees, are still pending.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Stephanie Chew said that Quang started working for a Vietnam-based firm called Prime Shipping Corporation in 2009.
He later became the captain of vessels including Prime Senator, Prime Splendour and Prime South.
Quang was the captain of Prime Splendour in March 2016. It was berthed at Pulau Bukom when he received a call from a man identified as Mr Nguyen Quoc Tuan, asking him to receive some misappropriated gas oil.
Quang then called then-chairman of Prime Shipping Corporation Tran Quang Tuan who asked him to follow Mr Quoc Tuan’s instructions.
He later received the misappropriated gas oil on Prime Splendour, and paid a Shell employee US$30,000. Mr Quoc Tuan then arranged for somebody to pay Quang US$5,000 in Vietnam.
The stolen gas oil was sold off, and the takings split between the trio and a fourth man – Mr Nguyen Manh Cuong, who was a former director of a firm called Petrolimex Singapore.
Quang said he earned about US$120,000 for his assistance in receiving misappropriated gas oil from Pulau Bukom from March 2016 until his arrest in January 2018.
Mr Quang Tuan, Mr Quoc Tuan and Mr Cuong are still at large.
On Aug 1, 2017, a representative from Shell Eastern Petroleum alerted Singapore police to the missing fuel. Quang was arrested on Jan 7, 2018.
The court heard that US$50,000 was seized from his safe on board Prime South and he admitted that the cash was part of his ill-gotten gains. Quang has not made any restitution to Shell.
On Friday, DPP Chew urged District Judge Ong Chin Rhu to sentence him to at least six years’ jail, stressing that these offences had the “potential to bring Singapore’s reputation as a bunkering hub into disrepute”.
Quang will be sentenced on Jan 14. For each count of abetting to dishonestly receiving stolen property, offenders can be jailed for up to five years and fined.