Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine has vowed to take immediate action against gas station owners who police suspect are involved in illegal diesel bunkering. While Ramnarine said he had not received any report that NP officials were linked to the racket he, however, said if it was the case action will be taken. He was responding to the bust at Sea Lots yesterday, where a truck was caught in a sting operation delivering fuel to concealed tanks in the area.
While Ramnarine denied that the trucks belonged to NP, he could not say if gang members were the culprits. “But what I can tell you, there is a significant link between the illegal trade in diesel and the underworld in Trinidad and Tobago. To me that is a blow against this trade. We are going after it.” Ramnarine said this activity was prevalent. He said he understands that each tank carried 5,000 gallons or 20,000 litres of diesel, which is estimated to have a retail value of $30,000 but would fetch $120,000 on the export market.
Ramnarine said the diesel is purchased at $1.50 per litre in T&T and sold for between $6 to $8 per litre in different countries in the Caribbean, which he refused to name. “The diesel in those trucks would have to be coming from somewhere. That diesel would not appear just so. They have to be getting that diesel from some source. What we find is that more than likely the source is a gas station. If it is in the investigation the police find out that it is a gas station involved, I can tell you action will be taken immediately.”
Ramnarine said information like this is relayed to the National Security Council. “We have been dealing with it at that level.” He said that billions in revenue had been lost over the years. Ramnarine said between 2011 to 2012 there was a 14 per cent decline in diesel fuel in Trinidad, which was significant. In the last six months, he said, there were significant breakthroughs by the police, customs and his ministry with the diesel bunkering racket.
“We are working hard to clamp down on it. But I still think the opportunity is there.” For the year, Ramnarine said there were raids in Claxton Bay, Matura and Caricom Jetty. He said four gas stations that were linked to the illegal operations were shut down. Ramnarine said the penalties for bunkering varied according to the volume of fuel seized and carried fines and criminal charges under the Customs and Excise Act or Petroleum Production Subsidy and Levy Act.
Ramnarine said he was expected to receive a full report from his head of security today.