Man linked to Shell heist admits to offences involving stolen gas oil worth more than $59m

Muhamad Farhan Mohamed Rashid arriving at State Courts on March 29, 2022. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - A man linked to a massive conspiracy to misappropriate gas oil from Shell Eastern Petroleum's Pulau Bukom site has admitted to offences involving the stolen fuel worth US$44,018,727 ($59,867,669) in total.

Muhamad Farhan Mohamed Rashid, now 34, received more than $735,000 in ill-gotten gains for his role in the offences, which were committed between 2014 and 2016.

Farhan, who joined the firm around 2010, pleaded guilty on Tuesday (March 29) to 13 counts of criminal breach of trust.

He also pleaded guilty to four counts of dealing with the benefits of his criminal conduct involving nearly $270,000 and one count of drug consumption.

Another 25 charges will be considered during sentencing.

Gas oil is crude oil that has gone through the refining process. It is often used as commercial fuel and in some countries, as an alternative to diesel.

One of the masterminds behind the heist, Juandi Pungot, 45, was convicted last month of siphoning nearly $128 million worth of gas oil, which was meant to be used as marine fuel.

Prosecutors are seeking a jail term of 359 months - a month shy of 30 years - for Juandi who admitted that he began embezzling gas oil from his former employer in 2007.

He is the first of three key players to be dealt with for his role in the conspiracy.

The cases involving several other people are still pending.

They include Koh Choon Wei, 39; Muzaffar Ali Khan Muhamad Akram, 41; Tiah Kok Hwee, 45; and Abdul Latif Ibrahim, 64.

Two other men who were process technicians were convicted earlier.

Muhammad Ashraf Hamzah, then 39, was sentenced to 9½ years' jail for misappropriating gas oil worth nearly US$25 million between 2014 and 2016.

Sadagopan Premnath, then 40, was sentenced to six years and eight months' jail for his role in misappropriating gas oil worth about US$36.1 million between 2017 and 2018.

Shell Pulau Bukom is the oil company's largest petrochemical production and export centre in the Asia Pacific region.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Christopher Ong, Stephanie Chew and Ryan Lim stated in court documents that Juandi and Abdul Latif first started conspiring to misappropriate gas oil from Shell in 2007.

The prosecutors told the court that Muzaffar, described as another key mastermind, was recruited some time between end-2007 and early 2008.

Farhan joined Shell Eastern Petroleum in 2010.

On Tuesday, the court heard that his role in the firm was "either to be a process technician or control panel operator".

According to court documents, Juandi and Muzaffar recruited Farhan into the criminal syndicate in 2014.

The DPPs said Farhan's primary role during the incidents of misappropriation was to open and close a bypass valve to facilitate the transfer of gas oil.

They added: "The accused and Juandi used walkie-talkies to communicate. On Juandi's timing, the accused would open the bypass valve and report back to Juandi that he had done so.

"After the misappropriated gas oil had been fully transferred to a vessel, Juandi would give another signal to the accused through the walkie-talkie, who would close the valve and return to his work."

Farhan was also responsible for starting the manual operation of pumps.

On Juandi's timing, Farhan would operate a panel inside the Movement Control Room and switch on the pumps using "manual mode", which enabled the pumping of misappropriated gas oil into the vessels.

Occasionally, if Juandi was in the Movement Control Room, Farhan also acted as a lookout and was instructed to alert Juandi if anyone was close to it.

Farhan admitted that he had used his ill-gotten gains to buy items including a $119,511 car in 2016.

The prosecutors said: "Some time in January 2017, Muzaffar suggested to the accused and Juandi that they set up a restaurant business together.

"They agreed, and eventually set up a halal Japanese restaurant called Hararu Izakaya Restaurant.

"As the restaurant required an initial start-up capital of $250,000, Muzaffar, Juandi and the accused agreed that Muzaffar and Juandi would contribute $100,000 each while the accused contributed $50,000 in exchange for a 20 per cent share in the business."

A Shell representative lodged a police report on Aug 1, 2017, stating that the company had suffered an unidentified loss of fuel.

In an unrelated case, Farhan also admitted to consuming methamphetamine last year.

His mitigation and sentencing will take place on May 26.

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