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Singapore charges 11 men over Shell oil heist

Reuters  |  SINGAPORE 

By and Gloystein

(Reuters) - Eleven men were charged in a on Tuesday over their part in an alleged theft at Shell's biggest refinery, documents showed.

Police in the island-state, Asia's main trading hub, said earlier on Tuesday they had detained 17 men and seized millions of dollars in cash and a small tanker during their investigations into a theft at the Pulau Bukom

Royal Dutch Shell Plc, which first reported the theft to authorities in August, 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."

Nine Singaporeans were charged over the theft and two Vietnamese nationals were charged with receiving stolen goods, transferred from Pulau Bukom to a small tanker named Prime South (IMO: 9452804), charge sheets showed.

Shipping data from Eikon showed the Prime South was shipping fuel between Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and for the past 30 days.

Those arrested by police during raids on Sunday, all men, ranged in age from 30 to 63. Police said the six who had not been charged were still under investigation.

The documents seen so far allege three incidents of gasoil theft: on Nov. 21, 2017, of more than 2,322 tonnes valued at S$1.277 million; and on Jan. 5 and 7 this year of a combined 2,062 tonnes of gasoil valued at S$1.126 million.

Both Vietnamese nationals were charged with receiving gasoil on Jan. 7, at wharf 5 on Bukom island, the documents show.

Police said they also seized S$3.05 million ($2.29 million) in cash and the 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. The charge sheets specified gasoil as the stolen commodity and listed varying amounts for each man charged.

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 and Fathin Ungku; Editing by Gerry Doyle)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, January 09 2018. 11:25 IST