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BP Singapore bunker trial: Prosecution and Defence present submissions (Part 1)

Submissions were the main focus of Tuesday’s trial involving the former BP Singapore Regional Marine Manager and executive director of Pacific Prime Trading.




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Manifold Times was present at the BP Singapore bunker trial on Tuesday. The following report is part one (of two) focusing on submissions from Clarence Chang and Koh Seng Lee’s defence attorneys; part two which covers submissions from the public prosecutor will be published in a separate article on 9 August.

Submissions of the prosecution and defence were the main focus of Tuesday’s trial involving former BP Singapore Regional Marine Manager Clarence Chang and Koh Seng Lee, the sole shareholder and executive director of Pacific Prime Trading (PPT), at the State Courts of Singapore.

Chang was facing 20 charges for allegedly accepting bribes totalling USD $3.95 million from Koh between the period of July 31, 2006 and July 26, 2010.

Defence submissions of Koh Seng Lee
Chelva Retnam Rajah, Partner of Tan Rajah & Cheah, who represents Koh explained there was no “obvious advantage” for his client to participate in such an activity.

He said PPT participating in a back-to-back arrangement with BP, where PPT buys bunker fuel oil from BP, bore the risk of fluctuating oil prices.

“In coming to this arrangement BP cushioned themselves completely from the risk of price fluctuations,” says Rajah.

“Now, the allegation is that this back-to-back arrangement was to PPT's obvious advantage but what was this obvious advantage?

“That has not been spelled out because if BP read the market wrongly it was PPT that will be exposed to fluctuations in oil [prices].”

Rajah moved on to address evidence found from the Function for Approval Department of BP, which pointed out Chang offered advantages to PPT due to it being the oil major’s biggest counterparty.

“If that biggest counterparty does not know its business and doesn’t trade properly he will not get the biggest advantage [instead] he will get biggest losses as the counterparty is taking all the risk and there was no obvious advantage in this arrangement that gives you the opportunity to make a lot of money and also opportunity to lose a lot of money,” he said.

“Mr Koh was prepared to do that. Why was he selected in the first place? Mr Koh got the opportunity as he has been long in the business and he was given the opportunity as he was able to run the business successfully.”

Rajah also questioned the alleged bribes which Chang received from Koh, as the first bribe was paid to Chang in July 2006 – five years after PPT started business with BP in 2001.

“In those five years not a single dollar was paid to Clarence [Chang] if this was a plan from the start as alleged by the prosecution then one would have thought the reasonable time to withdraw payments [for inducement for business from 2001] but the payments started in 2006 and that scenario does not fit,” he says.

Rajah further noted PPT’s profit and loss accounts from 2005 to 2009 showed Koh paid Chang more than what the company earned during the period. Overall, BP was the entity which ultimately gained from commercial dealings between Chang and Koh.

“Finally, has BP suffered any loss on these transactions? No! In fact, it has achieved risk free oil deals and in those circumstances we submit to the first accused [Koh] that the essential elements of the crime and charge relating to the money paid to advance the interest of PPT and BP, and these monies were paid with corrupt motive, as not been brought out by any of the evidence.” he said.

Defence submissions of Clarence Chang 
Andre Maniam, Senior Counsel at WongPartnership, presenting Chang highlighted the prosecution may want to reframe charges against his client due to his employment status with BP during certain dates.

According to him, Chang was “charged in 26 July 2010 in Singapore being an agent of BP marine fuels”.  However, Chang was neither an employee nor an agent of BP after 9 July 2010 as he has already left the company.

“The problem is […] much more fundamental. Does this even fit into the case theory? After he left BP, he corruptly obtained gratification from someone he is not employed with. There is no evidence as there is none,” he said.

Maniam pointed out the prosecution’s portrayal of Chang allegedly taking a share of PPT profits as flawed because “a share of PPT profits cannot be more than PPT’s profits.”

“As in the prosecution’s case these were bribes. Mr Rajah says these bribes doesn’t make sense as in the first year Mr Koh was giving away almost all the profits [of PPT]. By March 2008 to March 2010, he had given more than what his business makes.”

Maniam further questioned the reliability of BP bunker trade data being used against his client due to the selective omission of marine gas oil (MGO) sales figures from Malaysia and non-Singapore ports.

“So what if PPT was the largest counterparty? Is it a reasonable reason to believe there was corruption? There was no evidence. If Koh was not good at what he did, he did not deserve the volumes being transacted with him. The fact is BP continued to transact with PPT some five years after Clarence Chang left,” he says.

“It is entirely unsafe to draw if PPT was the largest counterparty and if the share increased then there must be corruption.”

Chang’s suggestion to use Vermont UM Bunkering as an additional counterparty for BP, when PPT was not performing well in 2009, also went against the nature of his role in the case, Maniam said.

“Clarence Chang was getting money from Mr Koh supposedly to keep PPT business with BP going on and he was not getting anything from Vermont. Instead of doing supposedly what he was bribed to do, he brings in a new party where Mr Koh has a share and he gets nothing from Vermont,” said Maniam. 

“It all doesn’t make sense. It only makes sense in the prosecution’s case theory if he kept Vermont out of it and he maximised PPT as he was bribed to do.”

Related: BP Singapore bunker bribery case update: BP bunker trade data in question
RelatedBP Singapore bunker bribery case update: CPIB officer takes to the stand
RelatedUPDATE: BP Singapore bunker bribery case
RelatedBP Singapore bunker bribery case continues

Photo credit: Manifold Times
Published: 8 August, 2018


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Vessel Arrest

Malaysia: MMEA detains oil tanker and cargo ship for illegally anchoring in Johor waters

Sierra Leone-registered cargo vessel was detained at 13.5 nautical miles east of Tanjung Penawar and a tanker registered from Comoros at south-east nine nautical miles, Tanjung Balau.





Malaysia: MMEA detains oil tanker and cargo ship for illegally anchoring in Johor waters

The Johor Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) on Monday (22 April) said an oil tanker and a cargo ship were detained in two enforcement operations for anchoring illegally on 21 April.

Johor MMEA director First Admiral Nurul Hizam Zakaria said both ships were detained by MMEA operational teams at different locations in Johor waters.

A Sierra Leone-registered cargo vessel that was detained at 11am at 13.5 nautical miles east of Tanjung Penawar.

The second incident involved a tanker, registered in Comoros, at the south-east nine nautical miles, Tanjung Balau.

Malaysia: MMEA detains oil tanker and cargo ship for illegally anchoring in Johor waters

A tanker, registered in Comoros, was detained nine nautical miles southeast of Tanjung Balau

The detained cargo ship crew consisted of 15 Bangladeshi and Indonesian nationals, aged between 25 to 56, while the tanker was operated by 29 Indian, Pakistani and Iranian nationals aged between 21 to 54.

The captain and crew members were brought to the Tanjung Sedili Maritime Zone for further investigation under Section 491B(1)(L) of the Merchant Shipping Ordinance 1952.

Since 24 March 2021, a total of 297 merchant vessels were detained including 34 ships recorded for 2024 so far. 


Photo credit: Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency
Published: 24 April 2024

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Vessel Arrest

Singapore: Chemical tanker “Green Land” placed under Sheriff’s arrest, boxship also detained

Ships including “Xin Xin Shan” were added to list of vessels under Sheriff’s arrest in Singapore’s court system; arrests were made on behalf of law firms PDLegal LLC and DennisMathiew.





Admiral Gulf / MarineTraffic

Saint Kitts and Nevis-flagged oil and chemical tanker Green Land was arrested in Singapore waters on Wednesday (17 April). 

The 46,136 DWT vessel was added to the list of vessels under Sheriff’s arrest in Singapore’s court system. 

According to the list, the vessel was arrested at 3.30pm and the arresting solicitor listed was law firm PDLegal LLC. The ship is currently held at Global OM (Offshore & Marine) – Grid 3816C. 

No further details regarding the reason behind the arrest were provided in the list. 

China-flagged container ship Xin Xin Shan was also placed under Sheriff’s arrest at 12.10pm on 20 April.  The ship is currently held at Eastern Anchorage and the arresting solicitor listed was law firm DennisMathiew. 


Photo credit: Admiral Gulf / MarineTraffic
Published: 23 April 2024

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Winding up

Singapore: Liquidator issues notice of dividend for Paliy Marine Engineering

Liquidator of Paliy Marine Engineering, which is undergoing voluntary liquidation, issued a notice on the first and final dividend.





calculator steve pb from Pixabay

A notice of dividend for Paliy Marine Engineering Pte Ltd, which is undergoing voluntary liquidation, was published on the Government Gazette on Friday (19 April).

The following is the details of the notice:

Name of Company : Paliy Marine Engineering Pte. Ltd. (In Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidation) 

Unique Entity No. / Registration No. : 199608223D 

Address of Former Registered Office : 149 Rochor Road #03-28 Singapore 188426 

Amount per centum : 100 per centum of all admitted preferential claims 12.21 per centum of all admitted ordinary claims 

First and Final or otherwise : First and Final 

Name of Liquidator : Abuthahir Abdul Gafoor 

Address of Liquidator : c/o AAG Corporate Advisory Pte. Ltd. 144 Robinson Road #14-02 Robinson Square Singapore 068908

According to SGP Business website, the firm’s principal activity is building and repairing of ships, tankers and other ocean-going vessels. 

Related: Singapore: Paliy Marine Engineering liquidator issues intended dividend notice


Photo credit: steve pb from Pixabay
Published: 23 April 2024

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