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Singapore Arrests 10 Crewmembers in Latest Fuel Fraud Scheme

bunker fuel theft in Singapore
Singapore impounded the tug and seized S$8,000 in cash (Singapore Police Force)

Published Aug 8, 2022 7:10 PM by The Maritime Executive

The authorities in Singapore reported the arrest of ten men working as crew aboard two tugboats suspected in a scheme to steal and sell marine gas oil from one of the tug’s employers. Singapore, which is the largest bunker fuel market in the world, continues its efforts to crack down on frauds and illegal sales of fuel. Last fall, nine men were jailed in an elaborate fraud cheating shipowners on the amount of fuel delivered to vessels.

In the latest investigation, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore worked with officers from the Police Coast Guard to uncover the illegal sale of MGO. Six crew members from a Singapore-registered tugboat and another four crew members of a foreign-registered tugboat were arrested on August 4. They were charged with suspected involvement in an illegal transaction of MGO at the sea off Southern Tuas Basin, Singapore.

The Singapore Police Force reports its preliminary investigations revealed that the crew members of the Singapore-registered tugboat were believed to have misappropriated the MGO without their company’s knowledge. They are charged with selling the fuel to the crew members of a foreign-registered tugboat. During the search of the tugboat and arrest of its crew, the police seized S$8,000 (approximately US$5,800), believed to be the proceeds of the sale. The vessel was also impounded by the police.

The six men, who are crew members of the Singapore-registered tugboat, are charged with criminal offenses. Each of them is facing up to 15 years imprisonment as well as fines. The four men working aboard the foreign tugboat are charged with dishonestly receiving stolen property. They are facing up to five years imprisonment and or fines.

The police and MPA have enhanced their security measures and report that they will continue to conduct enforcement and security checks to prevent, deter, and detect illicit activities in Singapore waters.

Last fall, the police won the conviction of nine individuals who were charged with cheating shipowners out of US$250,000 worth of marine fuel oil while bunkering in the port. The police discovered the scheme in 2019 believing it had been going on for at least two years. The scheme involved the use of magnets to defraud shipowners on the amount of fuel delivered. The masterminds of the scheme were sentenced to nearly three years in jail while others received between seven and 19 months. The bunkering company lost its licenses and went out of business.