SINGAPORE: Nine members of a criminal syndicate have been jailed for cheating buyers of marine fuel oil by using magnets to tamper with the mass flow meters on two bunker tankers.
The buyers were cheated of about US$336,930 worth of marine fuel oil in total, the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC), Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) and Singapore Police Force (SPF) said in a joint statement on Thursday (Sep 30).
Authorities said the scheme was conceived by three "masterminds": Ang Heng Lye, Tay Tien Whui and Kek Kah Hui.
It was carried out by six cargo officers on board the bunker tankers: Ang Heng Chye, Stanley Heng Meng Wee, Lionel Leong Wai Chew, Andy Chua Yew Hui, Gab Chua Yan Jing and Kek Kah Hee.
The scheme involved using industrial strength magnets to tamper with the mass flow meter equipment on the barges of bunker tankers Southernpec 6 and Southernpec 7.
A mass flow meter measures the amount of fuel transferred from a bunker barge to a buyer vessel. MPA mandates its use in the delivery of marine fuel oil as it provides assurance to buyers and suppliers on the delivered quantity of fuel and enhances transparency in the bunkering process, according to the joint statement.
The magnets caused the meters to record a higher amount of fuel than what was actually delivered to the buyer vessel.
Masterminds Ang, Tay and Kek supplied the magnets and taught the cargo officers how to use them on the mass flow meters, said authorities.
To avoid detection, the cargo officers used duct tape with the same colour as the surface of the mass flow meter to disguise the magnet.
Afterwards, they would send a text message to Kek Kah Hui informing him of the amount of fuel "saved", added authorities.
The fuel supplier then paid the three masterminds a sum based on the amount of fuel not delivered to the buyer through the use of the magnet. The masterminds shared the profits from this, and paid a monthly commission to each cargo officer.
The syndicate's illegal operations were discovered during an enforcement check by MPA in April 2019.
Heng had recruited fellow cargo officer Andy Chua Yew Hui to place the magnet on the mass flow meter during some of the bunkering operations, said authorities. He was caught using the magnet during a spot check by MPA and the Police Coast Guard.
For their part in the scheme, masterminds Ang Heng Lye and Kek Kah Hui were sentenced to 35 months' jail and 34 months' jail respectively in June. Tay received his sentence of 34 months and two weeks' imprisonment in August.
The cargo officers were jailed for between 19 months and two weeks, with Ang Heng Chye, Heng and Leong receiving the highest sentences of 19 months, 18 months and two weeks, and 13 months respectively.
MPA also revoked the bunker craft operator and bunker craft supplier licences of Southernpec (Singapore) with effect from May 8, 2019 and May 29, 2019 respectively.
"The authorities take a serious view of such criminal activities and will not hesitate to take firm action against those who commit offences that undermine Singapore's international reputation as a trusted shipping and bunkering hub," said AGC, MPA and SPF.