July 21, 2022

Senior cargo officer of oil trading firm worked with others to dupe customers of over $5m

By brit

SINGAPORE – Oil trading firm Vermont UM Bunkering and several of its employees worked together to cheat its customers in a ruse involving marine fuel oil, a district court heard on Thursday (July 21).

The prosecution said that the company delivered less quantity than was contracted on at least 52 occasions between Jan 4, 2014, and March 2, 2016.

As a result, Vermont’s customers were duped into making excess payment of more than US$3.6 million (S$5 million) for the fuel that was not delivered to them.

Loh Cheok San, now 52, who was then working as a senior cargo officer at the firm, pleaded guilty on Thursday to two counts of cheating.

Through his offences, he personally made illegal gains totalling more than $400,000. He has made no restitution.

The cases involving the company as well as his then colleagues, Lee Peck Yong, 34; Lee Kok Leong, 57; Koh Seng Lee, 60 and Poh Fu Tek, 63, are still pending.

Two others – Yang San Hua and Xing Tao – absconded from Singapore in or around May 2016.

The prosecution stated in court documents that investigations revealed that Vermont had engaged in unlawful “buyback” transactions with the chief engineers or captains of vessels from as early as 2011.

Deputy public prosecutors Alan Loh, Grace Lim, Kang Jia Hui and Genevieve Pang said that as part of the deal, there was an agreement for Vermont to supply less fuel oil than what was ordered by vessel owners.

The opportunity for a “buyback” transaction would arise when there was excess or remaining marine fuel oil on the vessel that Vermont was supplying to.

The agreed price for the “buyback”, paid to the chief engineer or captain, was usually lower than the market rate.

According to court documents, Vermont would then sell the excess fuel oil at a higher rate, such as the market rate.

It would thus profit from the difference between the higher rate and the amount paid to the chief engineer or captain.