Singapore arrests 10 crew members in latest fuel fraud scheme

Singapore seized the tugboat and seized S$8,000 in cash (Singapore Police Force)

Posted on August 8, 2022 at 7:10 p.m. by

The Maritime Executive

Authorities in Singapore have reported the arrest of ten men working as crew on two tugs on suspicion of stealing and selling marine gas oil to one of the tug’s employers. Singapore, which is the world’s largest bunker fuel market, continues its efforts to crack down on fraud and illegal fuel sales. Last fall, nine men were jailed in an elaborate fraud aimed at deceiving shipowners over the amount of fuel delivered to ships.

In the latest investigation, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore worked with Coast Guard Police officers to uncover the illegal sale of MGO. Six crew members of a Singapore-registered tug and four other crew members of a foreign-registered tug were arrested on August 4. They have been charged with alleged involvement in an illegal offshore MGO transaction off Singapore’s southern Tuas Basin.

Singapore police report that their preliminary investigations revealed that the crew members of the Singapore-registered tug allegedly hijacked the MGO without their company’s knowledge. They are accused of selling fuel to crew members of a foreign-registered tug. During the search of the tug and the arrest of its crew, the police seized 8,000 Singapore dollars (about 5,800 US dollars), believed to be the proceeds of the sale. The ship was also seized by the police.

The six men, who are crew members of the Singapore-registered tug, are charged with criminal offences. Each of them faces up to 15 years in prison as well as fines. The four men working on board the foreign tug are accused of dishonest receiving of stolen property. They risk up to five years in prison and/or fines.

The police and MPA have increased their security measures and report that they will continue to carry out enforcement and security checks to prevent, deter and detect illicit activities in Singapore waters.

Last fall, police secured convictions for nine people accused of cheater shipowners over US$250,000 of marine fuel oil while bunkering in port. Police uncovered the scheme in 2019, believing it had been going on for at least two years. The scheme involved the use of magnets to defraud shipowners on the amount of fuel delivered. The masterminds of the scheme were sentenced to almost three years in prison while others received between seven and 19 months. The bunker company lost its licenses and ceased operations.