SINGAPORE - A surveyor accepted bribes totalling US$90,000 (S$123,243.10 according to court documents) in exchange for turning a blind eye to the misappropriation of gas oil at Shell Pulau Bukom.
As a result of Muhammad Ali Muhammad Nor's assistance in concealing the crime, 15 incidents involving the misappropriation of gas oil worth more than US$10 million went undetected by oil giant Shell in 2016 and 2017.
The court heard that Muhammad Ali, 56, who was working for Intertek Testing Services at the time of the offences, is no longer employed there.
He pleaded guilty on Thursday to a graft charge and was sentenced to 18 months' jail. He was also ordered to pay a penalty of $123,243.10 – the exact amount he had accepted in bribes.
Muhammad Ali will have to spend an additional 20 weeks behind bars if he is unable to pay the amount.
Gas oil is refined crude oil. It is often used as fuel and an alternative to diesel in some countries.
One of the masterminds of the heist, former Shell employee Juandi Pungot, then 45, was jailed for 29 years in March for siphoning nearly $128 million worth of gas oil.
The cases involving several others allegedly linked to the case, including Muzaffar Ali Khan Muhamad Akram, 41, and Tiah Kok Hwee, 45, are pending.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Norman Yew said that Juandi and Muzaffar were engaged in a conspiracy with each other and other co-conspirators to dishonestly misappropriate Shell's gas oil.
According to court documents, they did so by loading the gas oil onto various vessels without Shell's knowledge or authorisation, in exchange for money which was subsequently split among them.
While working as a surveyor, Muhammad Ali was tasked to check on the quantity of cargo, including gas oil, that was loaded into the tanks of vessels.
The court heard that Juandi and Muzaffar approached him in or around August 2016, telling him that they were going to load misappropriated gas oil from Shell onto an incoming vessel.
DPP Yew said: "Juandi, Muzaffar and the accused agreed that the accused would forbear to accurately report the amount of cargo loaded onto vessels, which Intertek was engaged to inspect, and turn a blind eye to the misappropriation of gas oil at Shell Pulau Bukom, in exchange for money from Muzaffar and Juandi."
As a result, Shell gas oil worth more than US$10 million was misappropriated over 15 incidents in 2016 and 2017.
On Aug 1, 2017, a Shell representative made a police report stating that the company had suffered an unidentified loss of fuel amounting to nearly $3 million in April that year.
Police started investigating and informed the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau in September 2018 over possible graft-related offences linked to the case.
Muhammad Ali was among 12 people who were later charged with corruption in April 2022.
On Thursday, defence lawyer S.S. Dhillon said his client was remorseful and that he had been facing financial difficulties at the time of the offences.
The lawyer from Dhillon & Panoo law firm also stressed that Muhammad Ali was not a mastermind behind the gas oil misappropriation, adding: "He was a mere pawn in the whole scheme."
For graft, an offender can be jailed for up to five years and fined up to $100,000.
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