July 13, 2017 / 12:33 PM / a month ago

Denmark charges OW Bunker's Singapore head with fraud

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Denmark's state prosecutor charged the former manager of OW Bunker's Singapore subsidiary with fraud on Thursday but cleared the Danish management of the failed marine fuel oil supplier of any criminal wrongdoing.

OW Bunker filed for bankruptcy in Denmark in November 2014 after losses at its Singapore business Dynamic Oil Trading, a marked change of fortunes for a firm valued at $1 billion when it listed in March that year.

The prosecutor said the former manager, a Danish citizen, has been charged with committing fraud of agent by granting credit outside his mandate worth more than 800 million Danish crowns (95 million pounds).

The prosecutor did not wish to name the defendant but said no reporting restrictions had been imposed.

The former head of Dynamic Oil Trading was Lars Moller. His lawyer, Arvid Andersen, could not immediately be reached by Reuters on Thursday for comment.

Andersen told Danish publication Shippingwatch on Thursday that there had been no criminal activity, reiterating what he has previously told Reuters.

The prosecutor said it had not found any legal grounds for the criminal prosecution of other members of management within the OW Bunker group.

"In Singapore, this manager of the subsidiary has single-handed committed these credit exaggerations," state prosecutor for serious economic and international crime, Niels Vejlby Hansen, told Reuters.

"There had been several suspects in the mother company but our investigation shows that this has happened in the subsidiary," he said.

The bankruptcy of OW Bunker sent shockwaves through the global shipping industry and left investors and business partners scrambling to cover their losses.

Hansen said claims for damages could be put forward as part of the trial though the judge could reject claims if they became "too complicated" and instead refer the matter to a civil court.

A group of 26 institutional investors, including two of the largest pension funds in Denmark, ATP and PFA, is also waging a legal campaign against the former management of OW Bunker for allegedly misleading them in its 2014 initial public offering.

One PFA executive said he did not think Thursday's decisions by the state prosecutor affected their legal battle.

"I don't think it weakens our case, if he is sentenced or imprisoned. On the contrary, we think there is a civil responsibility, and that is what we're pursuing in regard to the board," said Rasmus Bessing, chief operating officer at PFA Asset Management.

Reporting by Stine Jacobsen and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; editing by David Clarke

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