By John Geddie and Roslan Khasawneh
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singapore authorities have levied new charges against a group of fuel thieves operating at Royal Dutch Shell’s oil refinery in the city-state, raising the value of the stolen fuel to over $40 million (30 million pounds) from around $10 million in earlier charges, according to court documents reviewed by Reuters on Tuesday.
Five former employees of Shell’s <RDSa.L> Singapore subsidiary received 51 additional charges in court on Friday for suspected theft at the Pulau Bukom refinery, Shell’s biggest, to bring the total allegations against them to 63 each, the documents showed.
The charges relate to incidents involving a total of 66,141 metric tonnes of gasoil valued at around $32.1 million between late April 2017 through to early January this year.
An additional three former Shell employees received eight additional charges for incidents involving 16,394 metric tonnes of gasoil valued at around $8.4 million, raising their total allegations to 15.
The values given in the court documents were a mix of Singapore dollars and U.S. dollars and Reuters converted them based on Tuesday’s exchange rate.
Pulau Bukom is located on an island just south of the main island of Singapore.
Southeast Asia is a hot spot for illegal fuel trading but the regularity of the thefts, many of which occurred during working hours, has prompted the company to take measures to improve security.
“We continue to be disappointed by what we uncovered last year,” a Shell spokeswoman said in an emailed response to Reuters.
“We are already taking short- and long-term actions to improve,” the spokeswoman said. Those measures include closer monitoring of products moving in and out of Pulau Bukom, tightening vessel management procedures, and stepping up ethics and compliance training for employees.
The Shell spokeswoman also said it is working with government authorities and industry associations to address the wider issue of oil theft.
The Singapore police said investigations related to the Shell case were still ongoing.
Shell first contacted Singapore authorities about suspected theft at its refinery back in August. That prompted a raid earlier this year which led to several arrests and the seizure of a tanker and millions of dollars in cash.
Initial charges from the first months of the investigation related to around $10 million worth of oil.
There have also been charges related to the thefts brought against former employees of one of Singapore’s biggest marine fuel suppliers Sentek Marine & Trading Pte Ltd; a Singaporean who worked for Intertek <ITRK.L>, a British-listed company specializing in quality and quantity assurance, including for fuel products; and three Vietnamese nationals who allegedly received stolen property aboard ships.
(Additional reporting by Dewey Sim; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)