BP Singapore bunker trial: Cross examination of ex-Regional Marine Manager starts
Manifold Times was present at the BP Singapore bunker trial on Tuesday (28 May). The following report represents a brief extract of the day’s trial:
The BP Singapore bunker trial continued on Tuesday (28 May) at the State Courts of Singapore with the examination of Clarence Chang, the ex-Regional Marine Manager of BP Singapore Pte Ltd, largely by Andre Maniam, Senior Counsel at WongPartnership, representing Chang.
Chang was facing 20 charges for allegedly accepting bribes totalling USD $3.95 million from Koh Seng Lee, the sole shareholder and executive director of Pacific Prime Trading (PPT), between the period of July 31, 2006 and July 26, 2010.
Inaccuracies in CPIB statement
Chang noted several inaccuracies in an earlier statement recorded by Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) Investigation Officer, Bay Chun How, on 18 October 2011.
The CPIB statement noted Chang, who has certified its accuracy with his signature, first knowing Koh in 1999; discussing the idea of setting up PPT with Koh in 2004; and naming Searights as a trading counterparty of BP.
In court, Chang clarified he first knew Koh in 1997 as it was the year he first joined BP; while 2001 was the year he discussed starting PPT with Koh; and Searights was “never a counterparty [of BP]”.
“You told us two dates which were incorrect 1999, 2004, while Searights was also not correct. Why didn’t you correct it before you signed the statement?” Questioned Maniam.
“I was in a rush at that time and my mind didn’t want to waste time on this as my priority was not to miss the settlement agreement. I basically tried to rush it,” Chang replied, explaining he and five other ex-BP colleagues were scheduled to sign a settlement agreement with BP on the same day as the interview at CPIB.
Chang and his five ex-colleagues reached a settlement agreement outside court with BP in October 2011 when they were accused by the oil major for breach of contract after leaving to work for Chinese oil company Brightoil Petroleum.
“If five of them signed [the settlement agreement] I thought I will have to face BP all by myself. I was not going to allow that at that time. I basically wanted to get out and sign the settlement agreement.”
Support for Pacific Prime Trading
In court, Chang recounted how he proposed and suggested to Koh of starting a new bunkering firm when he learnt of New Orient, a bunkering firm where Koh was a former Director, was planning to leave the Singapore market.
The decision to approach and increase business with Koh was due to BP being “very concerned” about the amount of customer complaints the oil major was facing from marine fuel provided by other Singapore bunker suppliers.
“We went to Mr Koh to ask him to increase the number of back to back business with us because he has a good track record with us while at the same time we wanted to reduce volume with Coastal,” said Chang.
“Koh said ‘we cannot do that’ because New Orient is going to withdraw from Singapore soon. That was then we asked him what his plans were, whether he was stopping as director [of New Orient] or want to set up his own [company]?
“He said he has no plans. After a couple of months, Koh said he wanted to setup his own company and he asked if we could help him.”
Chang said BP was also looking for more revenue and was willing to help Koh, who was already registered as a “representative” in the BP system. He noted BP Singapore adding 15 trading counter parties between 2000 and 2001.
“At that time in 2001, BP was in a positon to get as many trading counter parties as possible to improve our sales and business. I say we will surely welcome Mr Koh to work with BP. If we lost New Orient, we lose a part of the business.”
BP Singapore ‘crisis’ in December 2009
Chang later explained a paragraph in the CPIB statement, suggesting him showing favour to PPT by offering the company “good pricing” for marine fuel during a trade in December 2009.
“At that time, we had a crisis situation where we couldn’t sell any ex-wharf for Q1 2010,” he claimed.
“In December 2009, the MOPS versus Bunkerwire spread was negative $1.50 in a one-month average. If you buy ex-wharf of MOPS +2 and you pay barging you lose even more.
“Many suppliers reduced their price quite alot to move volume. Basically at that time our traders didn’t want to move the price down and staff couldn’t sell any [bunkers] to trading counterparties. Koh also didn’t want to buy from us.
“In my career we have never not sold term for the whole quarter so I didn’t want to do that. On that basis, I told my traders to get the best price and offer it to PPT.
“PTT is the biggest customer for us, if they buy then the biggest problem is solved. We also have alot of back to back with Mr Koh and we want to make sure Koh has the volume to supply. To give volume serves two purposes, both serving BP.
“The month we managed to get Koh to buy 110kt was usually lower than what he usually buys; we also sold another 40kt to another party at the same price.”
Koh Seng Lee’s spoken language
Chelva Retnam Rajah, Partner of Tan Rajah & Cheah, who represents Koh, followed up on Maniam’s examination of Chang with a single question.
“Could you let us know in all your meetings and business dealings with Mr Koh what language does he speaks?” Asks Rajah.
“Hokkien and Mandarin,” replied Chang.
Earlier court sessions of the BP Singapore bunker trial are organised in chronological order below:
Related: BP Singapore bunker trial: Former Market Manager takes to stand as witness
Related: BP Singapore bunker trial: Pacific Prime Trading Director cross examination continues
Related: BP Singapore bunker trial: Pacific Prime Trading Director undergoes cross examination
Related: BP Singapore bunker trial: Prosecution and Defence present submissions (Part 2)
Related: BP Singapore bunker trial: Prosecution and Defence present submissions (Part 1)
Related: BP Singapore bunker bribery case update: BP bunker trade data in question
Related: BP Singapore bunker bribery case update: CPIB officer takes to the stand
Related: UPDATE: BP Singapore bunker bribery case
Related: BP Singapore bunker bribery case continues
Photo credit: Manifold Times
Published: 29 May, 2019
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