Would you buy petrol sold from the back of a bakkie in a taxi rank? Well, at R7 a litre, it appears some motorists will – never mind that they are breaking the law and running the risk of doing expensive damage to their cars’ engines.
On Monday morning, police arrested three people after receiving a tip-off that the sale of allegedly stolen fuel was set to take place at a taxi rank in Greyville, Durban.
The man making the purchase, however, evaded capture.
Captain Khephu Ndlovu said the three men allegedly had “an arrangement” with the driver of a fuel tanker.
“The men would receive a call from the driver, and they would meet at various points and take the petrol,” he said.
He said petrol theft was rife and involved syndicates who “made a killing”.
Ndlovu said the men would appear in court on charges of theft and being in possession of stolen goods.
The allegedly stolen petrol was worth R8 000, and the largest containers found in the men’s possession held 250 litres.
There were about six containers, of varying sizes, all on the back of a small white bakkie.
A funnel was used to put petrol into the tanks of buyers.
Fuel Retailers Association chairman Reggie Sibiya said it was difficult to say how frequently illicit petrol sales were happening.
He noted that the price of petrol was regulated and it could not be sold at a discount legally.
“Our members haven’t really reported many incidents of this nature – of course they would notice if their deliveries were short.”
He said this process was cumbersome for service station owners, and they were sometimes never compensated.
“Motorists who buy stolen fuel are not only breaking the law, but they are also robbing us of future business,” he said.
He said the problem was not new and often occurred when petrol prices increased.
“Yes, they are getting the fuel cheaper, but how do they know it has not been diluted, with paraffin, for example?”
He said damage to car engines as a result of fuel being adulterated could cost consumers more in the long run.
He also said transporting stolen fuel was potentially dangerous.
“What if there’s a spark or an accident? What if that then causes a fire or an explosion?” he asked.
Avhapfani Tshifularo, the chairman of the SA Petroleum Industry Association, said that when prices rose syndicates needed to be watched closely.
“While it’s not as common here as it is overseas, service station owners and attendants needed to be careful that drivers don’t fill up and then drive off,” he said.
Because SA stations employ pump attendants – unlike stations in many countries which are self-service – it made it much harder for thieves to get away without paying.
Total SA, whose truck was involved in the illegal fuel sale, said it was not aware of the incident.
“Now that we are aware of it, the appropriate steps will be taken as a matter of urgency.
“Total will identify the transporter and immediately request (them) to launch an investigation and suspend the driver, pending that investigation.”
The company outsourced its transport and said there had been isolated incidents before.
They could not disclose how much they lost on average due to theft like this, or what steps the company took once it found a discrepancy in the amount of fuel initially loaded and the amount that arrived at its expected drop-off point, saying such matters were confidential.
In Australia, the Herald Sun newspaper reported last month that there had been 5 090 cases of drivers leaving stations without paying for petrol in the last financial year, a jump of 17.8 percent in the crime. - Daily News