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Shell MGO bunker heist: Chemical oil tanker “M/T Prime South” forfeited by State Courts of Singapore

12 Oct 2020

The chemical oil tanker M/T Prime South, which was seized on 8 January 2018 due to its involvement in the Shell MGO heist, has been forfeited by the State Courts of Singapore on Friday (9 October), learned Singapore bunkering publication Manifold Times.

Principal District Judge (PDJ) Ong Hian Sun deem the forfeiture of M/T Prime South to the state appropriate under section 364(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), according to documents provided by the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC).

The learned PDJ found Prime Shipping Corporation, a Vietnamese company that is the registered owner of M/T Prime South, to be complicit in the misappropriation of gasoil from Shell Pulau Bukom through the acts of Tran Quan Tuan, its former Chairman, Tran faces 22 charges for abetting the dishonest receipt of stolen gasoil and currently remains at large.

A factor which weighed heavily in favour of forfeiture was M/T Prime South being extensively used to receive misappropriated gasoil from Shell Pulau Bukom.

PDJ Ong also found forfeiture to be appropriate due to the gravity of the serious offences that were committed using M/T Prime South, given the sheer quantum and value of gasoil misappropriated.

In total, Shell lost an estimated SGD 198 million over a span of three years; investigations found two teams of Shell employees, namely team ‘A’ and ‘D’ respectively misappropriating an estimated SGD 128 million and SGD 70 million in gasoil between at least 2014 and 2018.

To date, probes revealed all eight vessels owned or operated by Prime Shipping Corporation had stopped at Shell Pulau Bukom between 2016 and 2018 to receive stolen gasoil totalling an estimated USD 33 million.

Over USD 7 million was received by M/T Prime South; the remaining seven vessels include M/T Prime South, M/T Prime Splendour, M/T Gaea and M/T Prime Sun.

Forfeiture, as such, will also deter Prime Shipping Corporation from using or allowing its other vessels to be used for offences at the bunkering port of Singapore.

M/T Prime South is valued at about USD 4.5million (or USD 3 million at forced sale).

Relation of case to Sentek Marine & Trading

The above development is related to a recent charge faced by the Founder of Singapore bunker supplier Sentek Marine & Trading, Pai Keng Pheng, according to an AGC spokesperson.

“This is related to the Pai Keng Pheng / Sentek arrest and charging, as both arise from the Shell Bukom case, although Sentek has nothing to do with this ship, which is owned by the Vietnamese company Prime Shipping,” a spokesperson told Manifold Times on Friday (9 October).

“Our case is that Prime Shipping and Sentek were companies that separately bought the misappropriated fuel from the rogue Shell Bukom employees. PKP was ordered to be remanded for a further week for investigations yesterday [8 October].”

Legal commentary on forfeiture by Helmsmen LLC

The forfeiture of a ship relates to the confiscation of property used to commit an offence. Singapore judges have discretion under the Criminal Procedure Code (section 364(2)) to make an order forfeiting property to the state.  A forfeiture order may be made either during or after the conclusion of criminal proceedings, according to Maureen Poh, Director of international shipping and commodity law firm Helmsman LLC.

The purposes of a forfeiture order are: (a) a form of punishment; (b) a deterrent to future crimes; (c) a way to prevent crime by removing the means that facilitated its commission; and (d) to ensure that the defendant cannot benefit from the proceedings of his crime.  Singapore’s Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act is another way in which the proceedings of criminal acts may be forfeited by the state.

Forfeiture of a ship is a rather uncommon measure meted out by the courts.  The state must prove the connection between the property and the defendant’s criminal conduct.  Third party interests in the ship might also play a role, for example, where the bank has a mortgage over the ship.

Earlier coverage of developments regarding the Shell MGO bunker heist can be found below:

Related: Shell MGO bunker heist: Founder of Sentek face charge at State Courts of Singapore
Related: Singapore: Shell MGO bunker heist amount balloons to USD$142 million
RelatedShell MGO bunker heist update: Fresh charges issued at Singapore court
RelatedShell Singapore oil heist: More charges issued at court
RelatedShell Singapore oil heist: Nine charged offered bail
RelatedSingapore bunker employee faces additional charges
RelatedIntertek Singapore employee among Shell oil heist suspects
RelatedShell Singapore oil heist update: More individuals charged
RelatedShell Singapore oil heist: Shipowner should have conducted a charterer check
RelatedFuel syndicate busted at Singapore Shell Bukom
RelatedShell Singapore oil heist: Breakdown of stolen oil cargoes


Photo credit: Manifold Times
Published: 12 October, 2020

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