Police break huge fuel smuggling racket

A fuel-smuggling ring allegedly led by a Greek businessman who heads a bunkering company and an Athens soccer club deprived the state of some 3.5 million euros, police said on Wednesday.

Officers arrested 15 suspected members of the racket, including 44-year-old Giorgos Spanos, who heads the bunkering company ETEKA as well as Atromitos soccer club, in connection with the scam.

Another nine people are being sought in connection with the racket, which is alleged to have illegally supplied more than 4.5 million liters of fuel oil to gas stations across Attica.

Apart from Spanos, key suspects detained by investigators include a senior official at the Environment Ministry and a customs officials. The pair are alleged to have tipped off the racket about scheduled inspections by authorities.

According to police, ETEKA’s tanker truck drivers siphoned off fuel oil during deliveries to ships, mixed it with vehicle fuel and resold it through a network of gas stations. At least 12 gas stations in various parts of Attica, ranging from Halandri and Aspropyrgos to Petralona and Perama, were found to have been involved with the fuel smuggling racket. The gas pumps at all the “affiliated” outlets were found to have been tampered with.

The probe was launched four months ago following an anonymous complaint regarding one of the affiliated gas stations, in Nikaia, near Piraeus, the owner of which is among the 15 suspects arrested. According to a police source, that gas station was put under surveillance for a week. “We observed fuel transfusions, from one truck to another, during the night,” the source told Kathimerini. After gaining access to the phone records of the 57-year-old gas station owner, police traced the other suspects, including Spanos.

According to Justice Ministry statistics made public earlier this month, fuel smuggling has cost the Greek state some 30 billion euros over the past two decades.