After two months of surveillance, police yesterday uncovered a major diesel-bunkering racket in Sea Lots which led to the arrests of two men who were caught pumping diesel into a storage tank buried under a mound of dirt and concrete. Police said several owners of gas stations and gang leaders were involved in the illegal activity and suspected they had been stealing diesel from National Petroleum (NP) service stations. NP officials were also said to be linked.
Up to 6 pm, fuel was being siphoned out of a cylindrical storage tank. A backhoe was used to uncover the buried tanks. Police sources said there were four tanks holding approximately 25,000 gallons of diesel. Officers from the Besson Street Police Station, Customs and Excise officials, NP police, soldiers and officials from the Ministry of Energy were on the scene at the shoreline at Pioneer Drive.
Police said it was a well-organised operation where small boats would come to be serviced at the shoreline on Tuesdays and Thursdays and then sail to bigger Caricom boats docked a short distance away. Senior police officers said in exchange for the subsidised fuel, gang leaders engaged in the illegal trade would receive guns and drugs.
Several residents of the area were in their yards and porches and continued about their business despite the movements of police and soldiers. The two men who were arrested, ages 26 and 34, are from Tunapuna and Sea Lots. The men made two trips from San Fernando to Sea Lots in a truck and were followed by police. The activity started around 11 am.
Police said in the next 48 hours they expect to make more arrests and intended to monitor other places where such illegal trade takes place. NP chairman Neil Gosine was said to have visited the scene. Calls to his mobile went unanswered last night. The operation is headed by DCP Meryvn Richardson. The Besson Street Police CID is continuing investigations.