Singapore Uncovers Large Oil Heist at Shell's Biggest Refinery

Eleven men were charged in a Singapore court on 2 January in connection with a large-scale oil theft at Shell’s biggest refinery, while police said they were investigating six other men arrested in a weekend raid.

Police in the island-state said on 2 January they had detained 17 men, whose ages ranged from 30 to 63, and seized millions of dollars in cash and a small tanker during their investigations into theft at the Pulau Bukom industrial site, which sits just south of Singapore’s main island.

Oil refining and shipping have contributed significantly to Singapore’s rising wealth during the past decades. But the case underlines the challenges the industry faces in a region that has become a hotspot for illegal oil trading.

The investigation began after Shell contacted the authorities in August 2017, police said in a news release. After “extensive investigations and probes,” the Criminal Investigation Department, Police Intelligence Department, and Police Coast Guard launched a series of simultaneous raids across Singapore, which led to the arrests.

Nine Singaporeans were immediately charged in the theft, of which eight were employees of the Singapore subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, court documents showed. Two Vietnamese nationals were charged with receiving stolen goods on a small tanker named Prime South, the documents showed.

Shell confirmed on 2 January that eight of the 11 men charged were current or former employees at Shell Eastern Petroleum.

Shipping data from Thomson Reuters Eikon showed the Prime South had been shipping fuel between Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and Singapore for the past 30 days.

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