Oil bunkering company and two of its directors face charges related to fraudulent transactions

Koh Seng Lee (above) is one of two Vermont UM Bunkering directors charged with 150 counts of cheating.
Koh Seng Lee (above) is one of two Vermont UM Bunkering directors charged with 150 counts of cheating.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - A ship fuelling company has become the first firm to be charged with offences that involve concealing benefits accrued from alleged criminal conduct.

Vermont UM Bunkering and one of its directors, Poh Fu Tek, 58, were each charged on Thursday (Nov 16) with 18 counts of abetment by engaging in a conspiracy to conceal such benefits.

They purportedly did this by using invoices that falsely stated various quantities of fuel oil had been sold to Vermont UM Bunkering.

Separately, the company, Poh and two others - another director Koh Seng Lee, 56, and former bunker manager Lee Kok Leong, 52 - were each charged with 150 counts of cheating.

In this instance, they allegedly sent out invoices stating that some marine fuel had been delivered when, in fact, the amounts were less than stated.

Through these alleged fraudulent transactions, Vermont UM Bunkering dishonestly induced its customers to make excess payments totalling more than US$8 million (S$10.856 million).

The company and the three Singaporeans are also accused of one count of engaging in a conspiracy to commit criminal breach of trust by dishonestly misappropriating about 250 metric tonnes of marine fuel oil entrusted to the firm.

They allegedly committed the offences between 2011 and last year.

The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) said in a statement that Lee and two of the firm's former cargo officers had been charged on Oct 10 with one count of criminal conspiracy to commit cheating, in connection with this case.

On Thursday, a manager of Vermont UM Bunkering, Mr Tang Ke, was in court to represent the firm. He said the firm would not be pleading guilty to the offences.

The court adjourned the case to Nov 23. Lee will also be back in court that day.

The cases involving Poh and Koh have been adjourned to next month.

CPIB said it worked with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore on the case and received valuable assistance from the authority.

"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," it said.