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CORRECTED-UPDATE 2-Singapore charges 3 more suspects in Shell refinery oil heist

Kitco News

(Corrects to show that Sentek Marine & Trading's managing director issued a note to employees as an internal memo and not a public statement. Also makes clear that Sentek Marine & Trading has not been charged and its name does not appear in court documents. Corrects Sentek's spelling in 6th paragraph)

By John Geddie

SINGAPORE, Jan 13 (Reuters) - A Singapore court last Saturday charged three men suspected of involvement in large-scale oil theft at Shell's biggest refinery, days after bringing charges against 11 under an extensive probe by authorities in the city state.

The Singapore subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell Plc first contacted the authorities in August 2017 about theft at its Pulau Bukom industrial site, just south of the country's main island.

Police have seized millions of dollars in cash and a small tanker in the sting operation involving simultaneous raids across Singapore, one of the world's most important oil trading centres and a major refinery hub.

Earlier this week, a Singapore court charged 11 men including eight Shell employees and two Vietnamese nationals related to the theft following a weekend raid arresting 17 people. Two of the three charged on Saturday worked at Sentek Marine & Trading Pte Ltd, one of Singapore's biggest marine fuel suppliers.

According to an internal memo to all employees from the company's Managing Director Pai Keng Pheng on January 13, Sentek has terminated the employment of the two, Marketing and Operations Manager Benny Ng Hock Teck and Cargo Officer Alan Tan Cheng Chuan.

The investigation also found that one of the vessels used to transport the stolen oil products was Sentek 26, which is managed by Sentek Marine & Trading.

The company was not charged or named in court documents.

The role of the third person charged on Saturday, a Vietnamese national, was not immediately disclosed by the court or the companies. A Shell spokeswoman said none of the men charged on Saturday was an employee of the company.

The three are accused of receiving stolen property, with a combined value of S$896,444 ($676,510.45), at Pulau Bukom site, where Shell has its largest refinery, according to court documents.

The amount of oil products involved in the theft on two days in late 2017 were in addition to more than 4,300 tonnes of gasoil valued at S$2.4 million specified in charges brought against other 11 suspects on Tuesday.

Court documents listed two vessels used in the transfer of stolen oil products on Nov. 11 and Dec. 31 at two wharfs at Pulau Bukom.

Sentek 26, which carries a Singapore flag, and MT Gaea have been travelling around the city state over the last 30 days, both making one journey down to the Indonesian island of Batam in late December, Thomson Reuters data shows.

The manager of the ship Sentek 26, Sentek Marine & Trading, was the biggest bunker fuel supplier in Singapore by volume last year, according to official data. Singapore is the world's biggest marine refuelling stop.

Illicit oil trading is widespread in Southeast Asia where stolen fuel is sold across the region, often offloaded directly into trucks or tanks at small harbours away from oil terminals.

($1 = 1.3251 Singapore dollars)

(Reporting by John Geddie, additional reporting by Roslan Khasawneh and Florence Tan; Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Martin Howell)

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