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Fuel smuggling through documentary frauds

12 January 2015 / 15:01:02  GRReporter
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A new study reveals the scheme of fuel smuggling from Greece to neighbouring countries, including to Bulgaria. According to the data therein, Greece exports to Turkey, Bulgaria and Macedonia larger fuel quantities than those described as imported by the countries. This is possible due to the fictitious export invoices. In fact, fuel tanks never cross the border and fuel is being illegally distributed in the Greek market.

The author of the study is Professor of Economics at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Dimitris Mardas. He refers to the official statistics of the United Nations Department of International Trade, where all countries declare the quantities of fuels they export to other countries as well as the quantities they import.

The comparison between the two data categories shows differences in the declared quantities, the most common case being that the quantity of exported fuels exceeds that of those imported.

In his report, the professor describes the modus operandi of smugglers:

  1. The Greek truck driver declares at the Greek border the exported fuel quantity. Then subsequently, instead of passing through the border authorities of the neighbouring country, he returns to the company headquarters in Greece with a load that has been only fictitiously exported from the country.
  2. At the border, an ordinary car driver verifies the invoices of the allegedly exported load of the tank, paying the members of the inspection authority, who are there, for the "services" rendered.
  3. The tank declares at the Greek border the value of fuels that are intended for export. The fraud in this case is linked to the quantity as the driver declares the value of a full tank whereas the fuel quantity is actually half of it. Then he does the same before the border authorities of the neighbouring country. This case is a typical example of double invoices in trade between EU member states.
  4. The tank declares the actual value of the fuel quantity intended for export and the driver goes to the border authorities of the relevant country. Meanwhile the tank "disappears".
  5. Another category of fraud is associated with the transit transportation of fuels. For example, Greece defines as exports the transportation of fuels to Montenegro whereas to Macedonia as transit transportation and not as imports. The great difference in both the total value and the quantity cannot be explained solely by the quantities in transit.

The differences that prove the fictitious exports of fuels from Greece are impressive. The data on fuel declared before the United Nations Department of International Trade show that in 2010 Greece exported to Turkey petrol totalling $ 116 million. The Turkish authorities, however, declared that the same year Turkey imported from Greece petrol worth $ 573 million.

The report states the reason why fuel is so preferred by smugglers, namely that bunker fuel is not taxed.

The smugglers use small tankers that they fill with fuel from refineries in the presence of customs officers and members of the anti-economic crimes service, stating that the quantities will be used for the fuelling of ships.

The study also indicates the smugglers. "These are the persons in charge of the fuelling of ships who, without the knowledge of the ship's captain and mechanic, often present a fictitious contract for the purchase of fuel and submit it to the customs authorities. After the delivery of the quantity ordered, a large part of it is poured into cargo tanks that carry it to the illegal warehouses in Aspropyrgos and Elefsina. A document certifying that the quantity ordered has been delivered is presented at the customs but the authorities are unable to determine whether the full amount has been delivered to the legitimate recipient. At the same time, the stolen fuel is processed at the illegal warehouses to change its colour. Then it is sold as heating oil in winter and as petrol for cars in summer."

Mardas also points out the reason for the failure of the Greek authorities to catch the smugglers. "According to some, the failure of the authorities to control the fuelling of ships, which takes place with the help of 50 small tankers, is due to the fact that the customs do not have motor boats. However, this is rather a pretext than the true reason which is bureaucracy. To conduct an inspection, customs officials must submit a request to the Coast Guard. When this happens, the information about the inspection spreads and actually, no one can be surprised by it. Moreover, the involvement of many different authorities and services may lead to conflicts between them, resulting in bureaucratic chaos," he said.

As for the illegal quantities of bunker fuel, they are eventually sold on dry land. "It is estimated that the number of illegal tanks in the area around Athens is over 200. They are owned by people who hire smugglers. They in turn store there the bunker fuel that they have managed to secure in cooperation with the shipping companies and customs authorities."

The investigation conducted in Attica shows that 5.2% of the inspected petrol stations sell "petrol" obtained through the dilution of bunker fuel. The percentage of fraud is particularly high in the category of super-unleaded petrol, namely 10%. The percentage of cases of petrol adulterated with naphtha is higher, about 10.3% in the region of Athens whereas the cases of petrol and naphtha adulterated with bunker fuel are two times higher in the countryside, reaching 20%.

Tags: Crime newsSmugglingFuelsFictitious invoicesBunker fuel
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