Bunker company charged with defrauding customers for millions of dollars

A Singapore-based bunker company and three of its executives have been charged with defrauding customers for more than USD 8 million. The fraud was done by over-billing customers for fuel purchases.

Photo: Modelfoto/Colourbox

A Singapore-based bunker company and three of its senior executives have been charged with fraud against several customers for a total USD 8 million over a five-year period.

There is, therefore, a strong need to deter illegal activities to safeguard Singapore’s reputation as a premier bunkering destination"

Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau
According to a statement from Singapore's anti-corruption authority, company Vermont Bunkering, two Directors and a bunker manager have defrauded customers by charging them for more fuel than was actually delivered.

The alleged fraud covers 150 cases and totals USD 8 million, and was presumably done by Directors Poh Fu Tek and Koh Seng Lenn as well as bunker manager Lee Kok Leong, says Singapore's Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau in a statement.

Vermong Bunkering and Director Poh Fu Tek have also been charged with attempting to hide the fraud by forging invoices.

According to newspaper Strait Times, the company pleads not guilty to the charges, which were committed during the period 2011 to 2016. It remains unknown how the three defendants plead to the charges.

Fighting bunker fraud

The charges come after the authorities in Singapore announced a tougher stance toward the bunker sector, which has for years been characterized by issues related to cheating.

In recent months, several companies have lost their licenses to deliver bunker and trade bunker oil in the country. These include Vermont Bunker, which lost its license in April 2016.

"Singapore is one of the largest and most important bunkering ports in the world. Fraudulent transactions in the bunkering industry, like short-supply and buy-back of bunker fuel, can be lucrative business for the errant players. There is, therefore, a strong need to deter illegal activities to safeguard Singapore’s reputation as a premier bunkering destination," writes the authority.

This marks the first time that authorities in Singapore prosecute a bunker company for fraud.

Parallels to Danish case

The case also draws parallels to the ongoing fraud case involving Monjasa.

Monjasa and founder Jacobsen cleared in fraud case

The Danish bunker company and its founder Jan Jacobsen were convicted last year of defrauding a Malaysian customer for millions of dollars by delivering less fuel than was paid for.

Monjasa was sentenced to pay a fine of DKK 10 million (USD 1.5 million) while Jacobsen was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison and was stripped of his rights to run a business for five years for which he is personally liable.

This sentence was appealed and has in recent weeks been processed at Denmark's Western High Court, where Monjasa and Jacobsen are fighting for acquittal. A final verdict is expected on Monday, Nov. 20.

English Edit: Daniel Logan Berg-Munch

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