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Anti-theft locks fail to stop fuel theft

   December 3, 2018        431        The Kathmandu Post

The Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) has started an investigation into the matter of oil theft involving a petroleum tanker that was equipped with an advanced locking system.

The Nepal Police crime investigation department took charge of the case last Friday, following orders from the Home Ministry, CIB’s Deputy Inspector General Niraj Shahi said.

Two weeks ago, a petroleum tanker bearing the registration number Ko 1 Kha 5965, was caught with a short supply of 2,500 litres of diesel. The tanker was supplying 20 kilolitres of fuel to Biratnagar depot of Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) from Barauni in India.

However, it was found that 2,500 litres of fuel had been stolen without touching the advanced locking system. This incident indicates that despite the much-touted anti-theft locking system on fuel tankers, large-scale pilferage continues.

After the incident came to light, the authority had barred the tanker owner Sukdev Singh from dispatching fuel through his other tankers. Singh owns 11 tankers.

According to Shahi, after conducting necessary enquiries at the Biratnagar depot, the CIB team is currently investigating at the Barauni based depot of Indian Oil Corporation (IOC).

The CIB officials said that it was asked by the Supplies Ministry to investigate the issue seriously amid criticism that NOC officials were trying to sweep the issue under the rug by letting the culprits go.

Although the NOC had formed a committee to investigate the case, it did not yield any conclusion.

It has been suspected that a big racket between NOC officials, transporters and tanker operators have been operating, promoting oil theft even through tankers are now equipped with advanced locks. “The racket might have made a duplicate key of the lock,” sources at NOC said.

They said that the tankers operators may have stolen and sold fuel in the Indian market where the rates are higher as compared to Nepali market.   NOC Spokesperson Birendra Kumar Goit said he was not aware of any oil theft investigation.

Last March, in an effort to control fuel theft and leakage, the NOC had installed security locking systems in all petroleum tankers.  According to NOC, the master keys to the security locks are held by NOC and IOC officials.

After a tanker is loaded with fuel at an IOC depot, IOC officials put the security lock on it. When the tanker arrives in Nepal, NOC officials unlock it and unload the fuel.

NOC’s Biratnagar depot Chief Dinesh Yadav said that tanker driver Sarvendra Swarnakar had reported that the IOC’s Barauni depot had dispatched the oil in low quantity. Yadav denied his involvement in the case.  Cases of petroleum theft have been rife for past several years. In 2014, a police investigation revealed that on an average, 10,500 litres of petroleum products used to be stolen every day on route from Baitalpur of India to NOC’s Bhalwari Depot in Bhairahawa.

In April this year, a Nepali tanker carrying 20,000 litres of diesel illegally sold 8,000 litres of fuel in India. The tanker with registration number Na 2 Kha 4352 was supposed to deliver 20,000 litres of fuel to five gasoline stations in the eastern Nepali district of Sunsari. But its driver fled after supplying only 12,000 litres of diesel to three gasoline stations.

The Kathmandu Post