(Trinidad Express) Police have seized a truck transporting 21 barrels of diesel which were to be shipped to Grenada.
The truck driver and boat captain were detained by police and customs officials after officers of the Port of Spain Task Force and the Besson Street CID intercepted the five-tonne truck during a routine roadblock exercise in Laventille, just after 8 p.m. along the Old St Joseph Road, near the John John, Laventille traffic lights.
Moves have already been taken by the National Petroleum Marketing Company (NP) to shut down the service station which reportedly supplied the fuel.
Customs sources said at the subsidised rate the diesel, approximately 5,000 litres, is worth $7,500, but could fetch as much as $30,000 on the black market.
In an immediate response, NP’s chief executive officer Neil Gosine told TV6 News that the service station in question was NP-branded, but was not owned or operated by NP.
Gosine said, “We are contacting the ministry and the line minister (Kevin Ramnarine) and are collaborating. What we are looking to do is shut down that station until further investigations.”
Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine, via telephone late yesterday, described the incident as a dent in the diesel racket.
“We continue to, of course, aggressively pursue this matter and I expect to get a full report on the matter first thing in the morning,” Ramnarine said.
He further stated that the ministry would be “looking at the (service station’s) licence with a view of trying to determine what its options are with a view of suspending the licence.”
The fuel, police said, was on its way to Queen’s Wharf in Port of Spain to be loaded on a Grenadian cargo ship.
The boat captain, a Grenadian national, later turned up at the CID office and he too was arrested. He and the truck driver were later handed over to customs officials.
A Grenadian cargo ship, identified as the vessel to transport the fuel, was later grounded. Customs officials placed armed guards on the boat and ordered the crew not to leave Trinidad pending investigations.
The suspects face charges of attempting to export restricted goods and removing fuel without a permit from NP.
The Government amended the Petroleum Production Levy and Subsidy Act which saw the increase in jail terms and fines to persons guilty of charges in relation to exporting or attempting to export fuel.
A person caught with volumes not exceeding 40,000 litres will be fined $500,000; anyone caught with volumes between 40,000 litres and 160,000 litres will be fined $2 million; and volumes in excess of 160,000 litres will be fined $6 million.
The general penalty provision of the Act was also amended so that a person who contravenes or fails to comply with the Act or any regulations will be fined $10,000 and two years’ imprisonment.
Last year, during the State of Emergency, it was discovered that millions in revenue from subsidised diesel were being lost by the State as a result of the illegal exportation of the fuel.