40-year-old Indian national Sadagopan Premnath has pleaded guilty to his involvement in misappropriation of SGD 49 million ($36.1 million) worth of gas oil at a multinational refinery in Singapore.

Premnath, who committed the crime in 2017-18 while working at the Royal-Dutch Shell Eastern Petroleum located on Pulau Bukom island, will return to court for mitigation and sentencing in February.

Premnath, the first Shell employee involved in the heist to admit to the charges, began working with the company around 2012 as a fieldman.

The heist occurred at the manufacturing site on Shell Pulau Bukom, the company’s largest wholly-owned refinery. It is also its largest petrochemical production and export centre in the Asia Pacific.

The conspiracy to misappropriate gas oil was reportedly hatched in 2007 by co-accused Juandi Pungot and Abdul Latif Ibrahim, both of whom were Shell employees. Their operation expanded over 11 years, with more people getting involved.

Premnath was recruited by Juandi. As part of the syndicate, his role was to take directions from his co-conspirators and act as a black oil panel man to open and close valves so that awaiting vessels could receive the misappropriated gas oil, the court heard, as per PTI reports.

He received about $150,000 from the criminal proceeds, the court heard, reported PTI.

After the suspected theft of gas oil was detected, Shell filed a police report in August 2017.

The cases of others involved are still pending. Several officers associated with the tankers that received the stolen gas oil have been jailed, including a chief officer who was imprisoned in July last year.