Ship captain jailed 5 ½ years for role in largest gas oil theft from Shell’s Pulau Bukom refinery

The Prime South, the vessel used in the fuel heist. ― TODAY file pic
The Prime South, the vessel used in the fuel heist. ― TODAY file pic

SINGAPORE, Dec 19 — A ship captain who profited from receiving about US$5.7 million (RM23.6 million) worth of stolen marine gas oil was sentenced to five-and-a-half years’ jail today.

Doan Xuan Than is the second person to be dealt with in relation to a multi-million fuel heist from Shell Eastern Petroleum’s Pulau Bukom refinery, which prosecutors said was misappropriation on an “unprecedented scale”.

Eleven former Shell employees and several others have been charged over the case.

Today, Doan — a 47-year-old Vietnamese — pleaded guilty to dishonestly receiving more than 8,000 metric tonnes of stolen gas oil on ten occasions between 2016 and 2017.

He worked with three other men, who remain at large, and they split the profits from selling the stolen fuel between themselves. 

Doan claimed that he earned about US$70,000 to US$90,000 in total up until his arrest.

Shell’s Pulau Bukom refinery is the company’s largest petrochemical production and export centre in the Asia-Pacific region.

The fuel heist plan was hatched by two syndicates of Shell employees on the island, prosecutors said. 

As part of the scheme, two Vietnamese vessels would enter the refinery to receive legitimately purchased gas oil, but they would also take stolen gas oil that Shell employees had sold to them through arrangements made by others, said the prosecution.

The police began investigating when a Shell representative filed a report in August 2017, saying that the firm had lost about S$2.98 million worth of fuel in April that year.

A report from December last year stated that around US$150 million worth of oil was stolen from the refinery over several years, in incidents dating back to 2014.

What happened

The court heard that Doan was employed by Prime Shipping Corporation from 2012, and became the captain of the MT Gaea in August 2017. 

He captained several other vessels before this, including the Prime South, the ship used in the fuel heist. The first man to be dealt with in the case, Dang Van Hanh, was Prime Sun’s chief officer.

Court documents showed that Doan conspired with these three men to receive the stolen gas oil:

― Prime Shipping’s chairman Tran Quang Tuan, who allegedly authorised its ships to buy misappropriated gas oil from Pulau Bukom. He also ultimately decided whether to do so after Doan told him how much it cost.

― Former Petrolimex Singapore director Nguyen Minh Cuong. He allegedly facilitated the financial arrangements for Doan to buy the gas oil.

― Nguyen Quoc Tuan, a former surveyor from vessel inspection company SGS. He is said to have helped handle payments too.

Doan usually liaised with two Shell shore loading officers, Muzaffar Ali Khan Muhamad Akram and Koh Choon Wei, to buy the gas oil. The officers would be paid for this.

Doan paid his crew using the profits he split with the other three men, but only told them it was “extra money”.

Another Vietnamese man, 48-year-old Pham Van Ban, was set to plead guilty alongside Doan today to one charge of conspiring to receive US$500,000 worth of gas oil from Pulau Bukom on June 22, 2017. 

However, his case was adjourned and he will return for a pre-trial conference next month. ― TODAY

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