Fuel trade fines investigated

Diomidis Spinellis, the former general secretary of information systems at the Finance Ministry, submitted documents on Thursday to Athens chief appeals court prosecutor Spyros Mouzakitis that allegedly show the government failed to collect fines for illegal trade in fuel.

The Finance Ministry suggested Spinellis stepped down recently for ?personal reasons? but the paperwork submitted by the former state official appears to suggest that there was more to his resignation. Sources said the documents presented by Spinellis indicated that the Finance Ministry had failed to collect some 15 million euros in fines on fuel traders.

Kathimerini reported last month that Spinellis submitted his resignation after officials at the Finance Ministry allegedly refused to collect fines that had been imposed on companies for illegal fuel trading. Officials allegedly also failed to conduct checks on the companies that had been fined. There were further cases in which various methods were used to cancel fines that had been imposed.

Spinellis had been in regular contact with Prime Minister George Papandreou about using the information available to the government to clamp down on the illegal trade in fuel, which is estimated to cost the public coffers as much as 2 billion euros per year in lost revenues.

Sources told Kathimerini that a circular issued by the general secretary for tax and customs affairs at the Finance Ministry, Yiannis Kapeleris, asked authorities to freeze the process of fining gas stations which had missed the deadline for submitting paperwork to claim returns on special consumption tax.

Heating oil distributors are allowed to claim back part of the tax on the fuel they sell to homeowners by registering the details on the Hephaestus system, which is monitored by tax authorities.

Inspectors found that some of the information entered was incorrect or had not been entered on time.