Fast buck made on legal lapse

Gas stations cashed in on a government delay to push an increase in fuel tax through Parliament, providing them with an opportunity to make more than 40 million euros in less than a week. The market couldn’t resist the temptation to make a quick profit, provided by Prime Minister George Papandreou’s announcement on February 3 to up fuel tax in order to boost government revenues by nearly 1 billion euros. Service stations reacted immediately by filling up their fuel reserves before the 14.3-cent-per-liter tax hike was submitted to Parliament on February 9. Industry sources said that the rush for more gas forced employees at oil refineries and customs points to work overtime to meet the extra demand. Gas stations that increased fuel reserves at the lower tax rate before later selling it at the higher tax rate each pocketed about an extra 10,000 euros, or a total of 40 million euros. About 6,000 of Greece’s 8,000 service stations rushed to take advantage of the delay with the remainder unable to do so, due to limited storage facilities. Part of the spike in demand during the six-day period was attributed to drivers who filled up their gas tanks ahead of the hike being passed by lawmakers, industry sources added. The higher tax, however, also provided an opportunity for some gas stations to jack their prices by 17 cents per liter, well above the increase due to the new levy. The finance Ministry responded by threatening to introduce a price ceiling on fuel prices and said it will increase inspection checks for abusive practices on the market.

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