Eight able-bodied seamen of the Amarco 9 vessel were each sentenced to a year’s imprisonment on Monday, after they pleaded guilty to committing misappropriation by pumping out the fuel load on board their vessel and selling it off to another vessel.
Locals Heng Fock Yuan @ Elbrin Heng, 21, Ahmad Marzuqi bin Musaddad, 26, and Awangku Abdul Hafiz bin Pengiran Ibrahim, 28; Indonesians Naser Sahadat, 44, Otang Saumar, 34, Adi Priyanto, 32, and Armin Mahmud Satia, 37; and Filipino Roland Tahum Capio, 39, claimed that they were merely following the instructions of their captain, who remains at large.
However, Intermediate Court Judge Pengiran Masni binti Pengiran Haji Bahar said that the defendants had a choice to not participate in the crime and to report the matter.
Through their participation, the defendants had conspired to commit criminal breach of trust, she said.
Although the defendants had obtained a nominal benefit from the unauthorised sale of the fuel supplied by Brunei Shell Petroleum Co Sdn Bhd (BSP) and considering their passive roles, the court highlighted the aggravating factors in which a degree of trust was placed on the defendants and the impact on public confidence.
“Although the amount stolen from the BSP is nominal, this case involves theft of diesel, a commodity of Brunei, and the loss sustained by the government was not compensated,” the judge said further.
The court also believed that the defendants would have continued their illegal activities, had it not been discovered by the Head of the Marine Logistics Department at BSP.
The defendants, who hold specific job titles under able-bodied seamen, had been posted on the Amarco 9 vessel belonging to Amarco Sdn Bhd, which has been contracted by BSP for five years to transport cargoes and containers.
One of the cargoes is used to transport diesel fuel, water and deck cargo.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Amiriah binti Haji Ali’s stated that an unauthorised sale of fuel supplied by BSP to an unknown vessel was uncovered early last September.
Suspicions were originally raised when the Head of Marine Logistics from the BSP looked at geofencing vessel movements, which raise alerts for suspicious cross-border or slow-speed activities.
The recorded data showed that the Amarco 9 vessel went across the border briefly between 10.38pm and 11.23pm on July 29. On September 9, the Amarco 9 docked at the Kuala Belait River at 7am, and eight out of the 11 of the crew members were asked to come to the Shell Marine Resource (SMR) which is a department under BSP overseeing all maritime operations under the company. At the same time, four officials of SMR went on board the vessel to look for any suspicious indications of unauthorised sale of fuel.
The eight crew members were later identified as the defendants. The other three, whose job designations were captain, second engineer and cook, were on leave at the time. The SMR investigation discovered a hose approximately four to five metres long, believed to have been used for diesel fuel transfer. A police report was lodged the same day.
Police investigations revealed that on July 29, between 10pm and 11pm, Adi Priyatno had been on duty and was instructed by the captain to bring the vessel to a certain location. Following the captain’s order, Adi Priyatno steered and brought the vessel to a location, where he saw an unknown foreign vessel approaching the Amarco 9.
The captain then instructed Heng, Ahmad Marzuqi, Awangku Abdul Hafiz and Capio to secure the two vessels together using a rope. The four crewmen then secured the fuel hose given by the crew members of the unknown foreign vessel, to be connected to Amarco 9.
Otang Saumar was then instructed by the captain to go down to the engine room to set the valves of the fuel tank, which he did so. He went onto the deck to check that the second engineer – another person still at large – had completed the connection between the fuel hose and valve.
Once the fuel hose was connected to the valve, Otang Saumar went down to the engine room to instruct the oiler, Armin Mahmud Satia, to switch on the pump. He did so, allowing the diesel fuel to flow from the Amarco 9 to the unknown foreign vessel.
Soon after, Otang Saumar went back onto the deck and waited for a signal from the foreign unknown vessel to stop pumping the diesel fuel. When he received the signal, he returned to the engine room to instruct the oiler again to switch off the pump.
With the pumping of the diesel fuel to the unknown foreign vessel completed, Naser Sahadat took over from Adi Priyatno and helped to steer the vessel back to the Champion oilfield as instructed by the captain.
Meanwhile, the captain had received payment in cash from one of the crew members of the unknown foreign vessel, which he distributed among the defendants.
It is found that the volume of diesel fuel sold to the unknown foreign vessel was 8,000 litres, worth BND5,440.
The defendants also told the police that they each received cash ranging from BND1,000 to BND1,500 from the captain, which they spent on personal expenses. Defence counsel Shamila Subramaniam represented Heng in the case.