Chief engineer gets jail term for Singapore bunker scam

APRIL 17, 2014 — A Singapore court has sentenced the chief engineer of a 105,365 dwt crude oil tanker to 18 months in jail for his role in a bunkering "buy back" scam.

According to a joint statement by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore and the Singapore Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau, Pittis Stavros was chief engineer of the MV Sakura Princess, which was chartered by V8 Pool Inc to deliver a load of cargo.

"He saw an opportunity for a lucrative business when arrangements were made for 500 tonnes Marine Fuel Oil 380 to be supplied to the MV Sakura Princess," says the statement. "A deal was struck with the bunker clerk and marine surveyor to sell back 200 tonnes of the fuel oil to the fuel supplier, thereby supplying only 300 tonnes of the fuel oil to the vessel. This is known as a 'buy-back' arrangement in the bunkering industry, where fuel is being 'sold' back to the company supplying it."

The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) mounted a joint operation with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) on January 10, 2013, when arrangements had been made for the illicit transaction to take place. The deal was struck as the parties involved colluded to ensure that only 300 tonnes of fuel oil was supplied to the MV Sakura Princess instead of 500 tonnes ordered by V8 Pool. The independent marine surveyor had under-declared the amount of fuel remaining in the vessel and the bunker clerk had prepared false documentation. Raids were conducted on the vessel and the suspected parties were arrested and brought back to the CPIB for investigation.

58 year old Stavros, a Greek national, was charged on May 23, 2013 with one count of Criminal Breach of Trust as a Servant, under Section 408 of Chapter 224 of the Singapore Penal Code.

Stavros elected to go trial, but on April 10, 2014, the court found him guilty.

At his sentencing hearing today, reports Channel News Asia, the prosecution sought a sentence of 28 months.

Defense lawyer Shashi Nathan argued that the S$30,300 that Stavros was said to have received in exchange for the short-supply was not found. He added that the person who allegedly received the money was also missing. Mr. Nathan said Stavros had not benefited personally from the transaction.

District Judge Eddy Tham declared it was in the public interest to deter such crimes and imposed an 18-month jail term.

The defense has indicated that it is appealing against both the conviction and the sentence, reports Channel News Asia.

Stavros's bail has been doubled from S$60,000 to S$120,000