Marine oil cheat gets jail for $153k scam

Marine oil cheat gets jail for $153k scam

A chief engineer of an oil tanker was yesterday sentenced to 18 months' jail for dishonestly misappropriating 200 tonnes of marine fuel oil worth about US$125,400 (S$153,359 at the time of the offence).

Greek national Pittis Stavros' bail was doubled to $120,000 pending his appeal against conviction and sentence.

After a 13-day trial, the 58-year-old was found guilty last week of criminal breach of trust while he was entrusted with the fuel, as chief engineer of MV Sakura Princess, a ship chartered by V8 Pool, which runs a fleet of vessels.

On Jan 10 last year, bunker company Constank was nominated to supply 1,800 tonnes of marine fuel oil to Sakura Princess, the prosecution said. A bunker clerk on board the Coastal Saturn was deployed to supply the vessel with 500 tonnes of oil, as the vessel claimed it needed fuel urgently.

Stavros struck a deal with an independent surveyor and the bunker clerk to short-change his vessel of 200 tonnes of fuel.

He told the two men separately he wanted "business", meaning that he wanted to enter into a buy-back arrangement with them, where fuel is sold back to the supplier.

He sold 200 tonnes of oil for US$40,000, which was meant to cover both his payments as well as the surveyor's, as the latter had also asked for a fee.

The fuel in question was contracted at a price of US$627 per metric tonne. Thus, the total value misappropriated was US$125,400.

Arguing for a deterrent sentence yesterday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Sanjiv Vaswani said Stavros had instigated the buy-back scheme, and the offence had been committed with sophistication and planning to avoid detection.

Singapore being the top bunkering port in the world, he said there is a strong need to deter illegal activities in the bunkering industry to safeguard and maintain the country's reputation as a premier bunkering destination.

He also said offences involving dishonesty related to bunkering cases are becoming more prevalent. In 2011, 11 people were prosecuted for such offences. This rose to 19 last year, and in the first quarter of this year, it had already hit 13.

In passing sentence, District Judge Eddy Tham said Stavros played a pivotal role and the offence could not have occurred if not for his involvement.

He also considered the public interest element in cases like this in order to make sure that the bunkering industry is clean. Stavros could have been jailed for up to 15 years and fined.

This article was published on April 18 in The Straits Times.

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