Premnath is the first involved in the heist to admit to the charges
An Indian man, Sadagopan Premnath, pleaded guilty on December 15, 2020, in a Singapore court to four charges of conspiracy to misappropriate gas oil.
The 40-year-old conspired to steal from his former employer Shell Eastern Petroleum.
Shell is the largest petrochemical production and export centre in Asia-Pacific.
Premnath pleaded guilty to being involved in a conspiracy to misappropriate about S$49.1 million (£26 million) worth of gas oil.
Several previous Shell employees were also involved in the crime.
However, Premnath is the first involved in the heist to admit to the charges.
He pleaded guilty to four charges of abetting criminal breach of trust as a servant, while another five charges will be considered in his sentence.
Premnath received £110,000 from his involvement in the plot and has not made restitution to Shell.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong described the scheme as:
“A long-term and large-scale conspiracy to misappropriate gas oil from the Shell Pulau Bukom manufacturing site.”
The court heard that the conspiracy took place between 2007 and 2018, during which gas oil was taken from Shell’s refinery.
Premnath was involved in the scheme between 2017 and 2018.
He was employed by Shell in 2012 and worked at the Royal-Dutch Shell Eastern Petroleum located on Pulau Bukom island, Singapore.
His duties included manually opening or closing large valves and operating the black oil control panels that digitally controlled the movement of valves.
Premnath’s basic salary was £1,775 a month and £2,500 with shift allowances.
With overtime work, he was paid £2,950 monthly.
He had six co-conspirators who were employed by Shell Pulau Bukom and were part of his work team.
They targeted vessels with Vietnamese and Greek captains to conduct illegal oil trading.
According to one of the co-conspirators, Juandi Pungot, it was well known in the industry that such people would readily conduct illegal oil trading.
The co-conspirators would approach the captains of Vietnamese vessels on an ad hoc basis, and ask if they were interested in performing illegal loadings.
In 2017, Juandi recruited Premnath into the syndicate.
He agreed to join partly because he was worried that the more senior colleagues might otherwise treat him with hostility.
Premnath’s primary role was to open or close the necessary valves using the black oil panel, as directed by his co-conspirators.
He controlled the panel based on the instructions from the more senior co-conspirators.
They instructed him when to open and shut the valves to avoid detection.
According to court documents, Premnath did not know who bought the misappropriated gas oil.
Premnath is scheduled to be in court for mitigation and sentencing on February 18, 2021.