|Police bust fuel syndicates|
|Sunday, 08 July 2012 18:52|
INTELLIGENCE police units operating at the Forbes Border Post and in certain hot spots in Mutare have managed to track down and arrest several people involved in the siphoning of thousands litres of fuel from tankers coming from Beira.
Areas proxy to the border with Mozambique have in recent months been turned into hide-outs used by truck drivers and owners of backyard service stations to steal fuel from tankers in transit.
The bulk of the thefts were usually executed at night.
The Officer Commanding Mutare Urban District police, Chief Superintendent Winston Muzah, confirmed the arrests on Wednesday, but said he did not have the actual figures of those arrested.
He revealed that the police had instituted an "intelligence network" that had managed to fish out several culprits.
The senior police officer said the siphoning of fuel from the tankers had become so widespread and it was costing fuel companies thousands of dollars daily as a result of the thefts.
He reiterated that the hideouts and the backyard service stations where the stolen fuel was being sold from were high fire risk areas.
"We have a fruitful intelligence network on the ground. Our guys have arrested quite a bit, but the war is far from over. What we know is that we will soon catch up with all those involved in these shoddy deals," he said.
The 'lucky' fuel thieves and dealers who escaped the ongoing police blitz were this week said to be quacking in their shoes as those arrested were said to have fingered them as their accomplices.
Those conversant with the unfolding crackdown revealed that the police were moving in hard to flush out those involved in the clandestine operations.
They said the honeymoon was over and the quick bucks that they were making daily were now a thing of the past.
Upon the publication of the scandal three weeks ago, most fuel companies have since put their trucks on satellite tracking to monitor the movements of their drivers. Some have seconded loss control personnel who make follow ups to ensure that the tankers are not being siphoned.
"We used to make money, but it is now difficult. The police are everywhere and fuel companies have since installed tracking devices to monitor the movement of their trucks.
"Those who are still stealing the fuel are now doing it in Mozambique because police in Mutare are blowing hot," said the source.
Unscrupulous customs officials and clearing agents stationed at the Forbes Border Post were also said to been benefiting from the thefts.
The underhand dealings in which the culprits were siphoning at least 800 litres from each tanker daily were bleeding fuel companies. A check by this paper showed low activity at well-known service stations in the eastern border city that used to sell the stolen fuel at giveaway prices.
Observers said some police officers were part and parcel of the stealing rackets and this explains why the vice continued for years without any concrete measures taken to bring offenders to book.
Chief Supt Muzah said the police intelligence network was not confined to the border area only, but was spreading to selling spots in the high-density suburbs.
"We know were the stolen fuel is going and we will soon knock at their doors," he said.