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Singapore arrests 17, seizes millions in suspected Shell oil heist

Reuters  |  SINGAPORE 

By and Gloystein

(Reuters) - Seventeen men have been arrested and millions of dollars in seized as part of an investigation into a suspected theft at Shell's biggest refinery, police said on Tuesday.

The arrests, made during raids on Sunday, come after reported the theft to authorities at its Pulau Bukom in August last year.

The company said in a release that the arrests included "a limited number of Shell employees" and that it anticipated "a short delay in the supply operations at Bukom." Those arrested, all men, ranged in age from 30 to 63.

Police said they also seized S$3.05 million ($2.29 million) in and a small, 12,000-deadweight-tonne tanker.

They have also frozen the suspects' bank accounts, the police said.

Bukom is the largest wholly owned Shell in the world in terms of crude distillation capacity, according to the company's website.

Shell declined to say how much had been stolen.

Shipping and refining have contributed significantly to Singapore's rising wealth during the past decades.

The Southeast Asian city-state is one of the world's most important trading hubs, with most of the Middle East's passing through before being delivered to the huge consumers in China, and

is also Southeast Asia's main hub and the world's biggest marine refueling station.

Shell is one of the biggest and longest established foreign investors in Its on Bukom island, situated 5.5 km to the southwest of Singapore, is the company's biggest such facility in the world, with a processing capacity of 500,000 barrels per day.

Southeast is a hotspot of illegal trading. In some cases, has been illegally siphoned from storage tanks, but there have also been thefts at sea.

The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in (ReCAAP) says that siphoning of fuel and at sea in Asia, including through armed robbery and piracy, saw sharp increases between 2011 and 2015.

There has been a modest decline since then, although the organisation said in a quarterly report that theft was still "of concern," especially in the South Sea, off the

The stolen fuel is generally sold across Southeast Asia, offloaded directly into trucks or tanks at small harbors away from terminals.

($1 = 1.3320 dollars)

(Reporting by and Gloystein; Additional reporting by Florence Tan; Editing by Gerry Doyle)

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, January 09 2018. 10:34 IST