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BT EXCLUSIVE

Fuel supplier Sentek's founder charged in Shell Singapore oil heist

Shell - Pulau Bukom manufacturing site - Singapore refinery - SHELL SINGAPORE.jpg
The Pulau Bukom site. Royal Dutch Shell's Singapore subsidiary first contacted the authorities in August 2017 about theft at the site.

MARINE fuel supplier Sentek Marine & Trading's Pai Keng Pheng has been accused of being involved in a complex cross-border oil theft from Shell's biggest refinery.

Sentek's LinkedIn profile states that Pai is its founder. He was also the managing director, according to a Reuters report in January 2018.

On Thursday, the 57-year-old Singaporean was charged with abetting the offence of dishonestly receiving stolen property.

About 2,916.3 tonnes of marine gasoil worth nearly US$1.4 million had been transferred from Shell's Pulau Bukom refinery in Singapore to the Sentek 22 vessel in March 2017, according to the charge sheet seen by The Business Times (BT).

Pai allegedly conspired with Benny Ng Hock Teck, Robin Wong Wai Meng and Alvin Koh Koon Yian to dishonestly receive the pilfered oil products. Ng, who was Sentek's marketing and operations manager, was charged two years ago for his suspected involvement in the large-scale heist.

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The charge sheet further stated that Pai knew the gasoil was stolen property, and that the transfer was made as a result of his abetment.

He is not on bail, BT understands. The court mention for the case is scheduled for Oct 8 at 2.30pm.

If found guilty, Pai may be imprisoned for up to five years and/or fined, under Section 411(1) read with Section 109 of Singapore's Penal Code.

Two of Sentek's employees - Ng and cargo officer Alan Tan Cheng Chuan - were among those charged in January 2018 in relation to the theft.

In the same month, Pai, as managing director then, sent an internal memo to Sentek staff stating that the company had terminated the employment of both Ng and Tan.

Ng, Tan and an unnamed Vietnamese national were at the time accused of receiving stolen property with a combined value of S$896,444 at the Pulau Bukom site.

That amount was on top of more than 4,300 tonnes of gasoil valued at S$2.4 million specified in charges brought against 11 other suspects just a few days earlier in January 2018.

The Singapore subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell first contacted the authorities in August 2017 about theft at Pulau Bukom.

Before the individuals were charged, the police had seized millions of dollars in cash and a small tanker in a sting operation involving simultaneous raids across Singapore.

According to Reuters reports, the other men charged included Shell employees and a Singaporean who worked at London-listed assurance, inspection, product testing and certification company Intertek Group.

Sentek is one of Singapore's biggest marine fuel suppliers by volume. Another of its vessels, Sentek 26, was also found to have been used to transport the stolen oil products. The Prime South and MT Gaea ships were also named in court documents.

Those three vessels had travelled between ports in Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia, shipping data from Thomson Reuters Eikon showed.

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