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Vermont Bunkering dishonestly induced its customers to make excess payments totalling over US$8 million, says CPIB.

Directors Poh Fu Tek and Koh Seng Lee, and one former bunker manager, Lee Kok Leong, of Singapore-based Vermont UM Bunkering were charged with cheating and criminal breach of trust offences under the Penal Code at a Singapore court on Thursday, writes Gabian Chew

‘Through these alleged fraudulent transactions, Vermont Bunkering had dishonestly induced its customers to make excess payments totalling over US$8 million,’ said Singapore’s Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).

According to CPIB, the Penal Code offence charges against the trio are as follows:

•         150 counts of engaging in a conspiracy to cheat customers of Vermont Bunkering by delivering invoices indicating a higher quantity of marine fuel had been delivered when in fact a lower quantity was delivered. As a result, these customers were dishonestly induced to make excess payments to Vermont Bunkering. All these constituted offences punishable under section 420 read with section 109 of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed).

•         One count of engaging in a conspiracy to commit criminal breach of trust by dishonestly misappropriating approximately 250 metric tons of marine fuel oil entrusted to Vermont Bunkering, an offence punishable under section 406 read with section 109 of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed).

Vermont Bunkering and Poh will be further charged with 18 counts of abetment by engaging in a conspiracy to disguise property representing benefits from criminal conduct. This was carried out by falsely purporting that various quantities of fuel oil had been sold to Vermont Bunkering – an offence under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act [CDSA].

‘This is the first time a company (i.e. legal person) will be prosecuted for offences under the CDSA. An individual who commits an offence under section 47 of the CDSA shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $500,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or to both; if the person is not an individual, a higher fine not exceeding $1 million may be imposed,’ commented CPIB.

On 10 October, former cargo officers of Vermont Bunkering, Lee Peck Yong and Loh Cheok San, together with Lee Kok Leong, were each charged with one count of criminal conspiracy to commit cheating by deceiving Vermont Bunkering into paying them even larger commissions than the sum being used to facilitate the illegal marine fuel oil buy-back transactions.

‘As a result, Vermont Bunkering was dishonestly induced to pay a larger sum for the marine fuel,’ CPIB adds.

‘CPIB had worked with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) on this case and received valuable assistance from them.

‘Singapore adopts a zero tolerance approach towards corruption and criminal activities. The CPIB takes a serious view of any corrupt and criminal practices, and will not hesitate to take action against any party involved in such acts.’

The MPA revoked the bunker supplier and bunker craft operator licences of Vermont Bunkering on 28 April 2016 due to discrepancies and wrongful declarations in the records kept on board its bunker tankers.

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