Singapore charges defunct marine fuel supplier, staff for cheating

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - A Singapore marine fuel supplier and three executives have been charged with cheating as part of a government crackdown on short deliveries of fuel to vessels in the world’s largest bunkering hub.

Vermont UM Bunkering Pte Ltd, two directors and a former bunker manager were charged with 150 counts of conspiracy to charge customers for more marine fuels - also known as bunkers - than actually delivered, the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) said in a statement.

“Through these alleged fraudulent transactions, Vermont Bunkering had dishonestly induced its customers to make excess payments totaling over $8 million,” the statement said.

Singapore’s Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) had stripped Vermont Um of its operating licenses in April 2016 after finding discrepancies and wrongful declarations in records kept on board its vessels. [D-REUTERSNEWS-T004/I4520d3000d2c11e6afbf8a4140425e68]

So far this year, Singapore has deprived three of the city-state’s top 10 marine fuel suppliers of their operating licenses, while another two operators opted not to renew their licenses.

Vermont and the three men were also charged with one count of conspiracy to commit criminal breach of trust by misappropriating about 250 tonnes of marine fuel oil entrusted to Vermont Bunkering, the CPIB said.

As well, Vermont and director Poh Fu Tek were each charged with 18 counts of abetment relating to the use of false invoices under Singapore’s Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes Act (CDSA), it said.

The CPIB said it was the first time that a company would be prosecuted for offences under the Act. If convicted, an individual faces a maximum fine of $500,000, or up to 10 years prison, or both, while a company faces a fine up to $1 million.

In 2015, Vermont Um was ranked by the MPA as the 18th-largest marine fuel supplier in Singapore by volume.

Singapore this year became the world’s first port to mandate the use of mass flow meters for bunker fuel deliveries to boost transparency in the delivery of marine fuels.

Reporting by Roslan Khasawneh; editing by Richard Pullin