Indonesian Captain Arrested in Fuel-Selling Racket
Police in Mumbai have arrested the captain of the cargo ship Kresh Jade in connection with a scheme to illegally transfer bunkers to black market fuel traders.
Captain Shamshul Bakhri, a 42-year-old Indonesian national, is accused of participating in the transfer of 3,000 gallons of fuel oil to a twenty-foot tugboat some five nm off the port of Mumbai. His arrest was based on the testimony of six persons caught aboard the tug shortly after the alleged transfer.
An officer described the predawn raid on the tug and the cargo ship as a careful covert operation. “We went in trawlers. Around that time there are a lot of fishing boats. Hence, they were not alerted and we caught them red-handed,” he told local media.
Captain Bakhri faces charges of criminal conspiracy, plus violations of India's Petroleum Act and Black Marketing Act.
The authorities say they have evidence of the position of the Kresh Jade at the time of the transfer, and add that it is illegal to sell large volumes of diesel without a license.
A police official said that cargo ships like the Jade often have a fuel allotment set by their owners for their route, but that sometimes the crew find a way to siphon some off for their own gain. "In some cases, the oil is saved by shutting down one of the engines, and the reserve is then sold to men who in turn sell it in the black market at a lower rate," said the officer. Typically the transfers occur close to port.
Mumbai police have combatted the problem for years. In 2011, police arrested the OSV Sagar Sevak in Mumbai's harbor and confiscated 15,000 gallons of illegally obtained fuel. Her crew had been in the practice of buying diesel from ships at 20 percent of the going price and reselling it on the black market for a hefty profit.
"This is a hazardous activity which could lead to an oil spill or a fire in the high sea. The arrest of a cargo crew member is significant and will help curb the smuggling," an official said.
The captain of the tug in the Kresh Jade case, known by the name Rafique, is still at large. Authorities are investigating his background for ties to organized crime.