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Petrol stations buying diesel illegally

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We are now inquiring into several dozen cases, mostly in Moravia,” said Jiří Barták, spokesman for the General Customs Directorate. “I cannot say more now,” he added. Customs officers are able to monitor fuels transported within the Czech Republic without any problems, he said. “We have problems if the fuel is imported from other countries of the European Union or if the Czech Republic is just a transit country according to the papers,” said Barták. The reason is that the interconnection of European customs databases is not sufficient yet, he added.

Petrol station operators pointed to the fact that there is an increasing number of illegal fuel tanks now. “Last week, (the refinery) Česká rafinérská sold diesel oil from CZK 21.71. If we add transport and VAT, we get CZK 26.30 a litre,” said an owner of a small fuel retailer who wished not to be named owing to fear of fraudsters’ revenge. “But still, some petrol stations sold at the price charged by refineries,” he added. That proves that fuel retailers do buy fuels from the fraudsters, he said. An average mark-up of fuel retailers reached CZK 1.70 a litre last week. “With untaxed petrol, it is ten-to-fifteen crowns per litre,” said an owner of several petrol stations near the capital city.

Customs officers admit too that petrol station operators buy petrol from fraudsters, but say it concerns rather small companies. “Large networks have their own transport channels and check everything thoroughly,” said Barták. “We transport fuel in our own tanks and check the quality at petrol stations on a regular basis,” said Václav Loula, quality director at Benzina.

But petrol station operators say that fraudsters seek in particular petrol stations selling major amounts of fuels because the risk of detecting the fraud is then almost at zero. “If you want to sell a tank with no papers, you have to find a petrol station that sells large volumes. One tank can hold 35,000 litres. The best situation is when everything is sold within one day. If we realize that the average monthly sale in the Czech Republic hovers around 100,000-150,000 litres, then it is clear that only major petrol stations can meet the condition,” said a well-informed source who did not wish to be named.

Fraudsters buy a tank abroad, sell it a few times to allied companies and then send it to the Czech Republic with faked papers, the source said. This is the most risky part. But the poor coordination of European customs authorities reduces the risk. ,,As soon as the petrol reaches the right filling station, then there is no problem. If an inspection comes, the owner just says that the counter has jammed and escapes with a fine at most,” the source said.

Customs officers admitted that they have the biggest chance to convince fraudsters when they manage to catch a tank on the way.

Translated with permission by the Prague Daily Monitor.

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