Man allegedly linked to $1.88m oil heist faces 40 more charges

Ex-MD of bunker firm accused of bribing staff to avoid police probe

The founder of a bunkering firm who was allegedly part of a conspiracy to receive nearly US$1.4 million (S$1.88 million) in stolen marine gas oil is now accused of bribing employees with almost $840,000 to avoid police investigations.

Former Sentek Marine managing director Pai Keng Pheng, 58, was yesterday handed another 40 charges of bribery and obstructing the course of justice, on top of his previous charge of receiving stolen property.

He was granted bail of $1 million on the same day after a lengthy debate in court.

His sister Pai Guat Mooi, 53, and Wong Wai Seng, 50, were also charged with corruption linked with these alleged offences.

Earlier media reports stated that about 3,000 tonnes of marine gas oil had been transferred in March 2017 from Shell's Pulau Bukom refinery to a vessel owned by Sentek Marine, one of Singapore's biggest marine fuel suppliers.

Pai Keng Pheng was said to be part of a group that had planned to dishonestly receive the stolen oil products, according to court documents at the time.

The charge sheets added that he allegedly knew the gas oil was stolen property, and that the transfer was made on his urging.

A joint statement by the police and Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau released yesterday said Pai Keng Pheng allegedly arranged for three bunker clerks to leave Singapore between 2018 and this year.

This was to make them unavailable for police investigations into the oil heist. He allegedly gave the three clerks or their representatives around $839,540, assisted by Wong, Pai Guat Mooi and others whose details were not given.

Pai Keng Pheng also allegedly instructed Wong to tell the clerks in January 2018 to dispose of their mobile phones, which he knew likely contained evidence for the police.

In November 2018, he is said to have told Wong to lie to the police that the three bunker clerks were out at sea and uncontactable, intending to conceal their true location from the police.

The statement added that those convicted of a corruption offence can be fined a maximum of $100,000 and jailed for five years.

Those who obstruct police investigations can receive a maximum sentence of a fine and seven years in prison.

In a two-hour debate in court on whether Pai Keng Pheng's bail should be revoked, the prosecution said there was a high risk he would tamper with investigations or flee before the next hearing.

Defence lawyer Davinder Singh urged the judge to grant his client bail, arguing that the prosecution's evidence was mere allegations and that his client needed to be out of jail to prepare for court.

He added that it was highly unlikely that Pai Keng Pheng would flee the country as he needs to tend to his sick wife.

Judge Eugene Teo stated that he will allow bail and gave a short adjournment. The prosecution then suggested that the bail amount be raised by five times to $1.5 million, which was then challenged by Mr Singh.

Judge Teo decided on a bail amount of $1 million and set a pre-trial conference for Oct 29.

Correction note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly named the District Judge involved in the case. The AGC also clarified that it did not retract the bid to deny bail but instead withdrew it's application for a stay of the judge's decision to allow bail. We are sorry for the errors.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2021, with the headline 'Man allegedly linked to $1.88m oil heist faces 40 more charges'. Subscribe