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Shell heist: Two ex-employees Make Profit of At least $1 million Each From Stolen Fuel

TWO former Shell employees, whom the prosecution described as leaders in a conspiracy to misappropriate gas oil from the oil giant’s Pulau Bukom facility, pleaded guilty to multiple offences in the High Court on July 2.

Muzaffar Ali Khan Muhamad Akram, 42, who helped misappropriate gas oil worth nearly $120 million, made at least $1.3 million in profits.

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Koh Choon Wei, 40, gained at least $1 million from his role in misappropriating gas oil worth over $101 million.

They will be sentenced on July 25.

The two Singaporeans were employed as shore loading officers at the time of their arrests, earning a monthly salary of around $6,000. They are among several people linked to the oil heist that took place from 2007 to 2018.

On July 2, Muzaffar pleaded guilty to 31 charges – 20 for abetting the commission of criminal breach of trust, five for using his criminal benefits and six corruption-related charges.

Koh pleaded guilty to 21 charges – 14 for abetting the commission of criminal breach of trust and seven for using his criminal benefits.

Both were working in the same team at the Pulau Bukom facility that was primarily responsible for loading fuel products onto vessels berthed at the wharf.

The conspiracy to misappropriate gas oil was started by former Shell employees Juandi Pungot and Abdul Latif Ibrahim in 2007. Juandi was sentenced to 29 years in jail in March 2022, while Latif’s case is pending.

Muzaffar was recruited into the scheme between end-2007 and early 2008, and Koh in September 2015.

Juandi, Koh and Muzaffar led the illegal loading of gas oil onto vessels by making arrangements with the ship captains.

From 2014, Juandi and Muzaffar bribed independent surveyors appointed by Shell to conduct inspections on the gas oil sold. They did so to stop the surveyors from reporting on the presence of excess gas oil on the vessels.

When the gas oil was being illegally loaded, the team, including Muzaffar and Koh, coordinated their activities through group chats on their mobile phones that they subsequently deleted.

Taking steps to avoid detection, the team also distracted their supervisor, who was not part of the scheme, and tampered with closed-circuit television cameras.

The misappropriated gas oil was sold to local and foreign vessels.

A Shell representative lodged a police report in August 2017 stating that it had suffered unidentified fuel loss. Muzaffar and Koh were arrested in January 2018.

Muzaffar spent part of his criminal proceeds on opening a halal Japanese restaurant with two others, purchasing an investment property in Australia and buying a Volkswagen car.

Koh used his tainted funds on investments, the down payment for a condominium and the purchase of a barbershop business with three others, among other things.

The prosecution sought 27 years and 10 months’ jail for Muzaffar, and 23 years and 10 months’ jail for Koh.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong said the duo were leaders in the conspiracy and motivated by profit.

He added that they misappropriated a large quantity of gas oil, and committed their offences as part of a criminal syndicate.

He noted that Muzaffar was more culpable than Koh as the former was involved in the scheme much earlier and had participated in recruiting and training other conspirators.

“However, compared to other conspirators, Koh played a leadership role in the syndicate, arising in part from his seniority. He was involved in decision-making in a way that Cai Zhi Zhong and Tiah Kok Hwee were not involved,” added DPP Ong.

Cai was sentenced to 16 years and three months’ jail in October 2022, while Tiah got 16 years and four months’ jail in January 2023.

Muzaffar’s lawyer Gino Hardial Singh argued against the prosecution’s point that there was a transnational element in his client’s offences.

“This wasn’t a syndicate that spanned across borders. The criminal enterprise was in Singapore and the accused are Singaporeans,” he said.

Seeking 24 years and four months’ jail for Muzaffar, Mr Singh said his client’s criminal proceeds of about $1.3 million pale in comparison to the $5.6 million Juandi reaped.

He added that his client, who has four children aged between eight and 17, will miss a large portion of their childhood while serving time in prison.

Seeking 16 years and 10 months’ jail for Koh, defence lawyer Kalidass Murugaiyan said his client generally took instructions from Juandi and Muzaffar, and had no recruiting power.

“The modus operandi and the fundamentals of this scheme were founded seven years before my client’s recruitment. It is hard to argue that his culpability is close to Juandi’s,” the lawyer added.

Mr Kalidass said Koh has voluntarily surrendered all his criminal proceeds and cooperated with the authorities in their investigation.

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