NEWS

SDOE expands probe into doctored fuel to armed forces

The Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) is investigating what appears to be the widespread use of adulterated fuel by the armed forces amid a wave of fuel smuggling and tax evasion, Kathimerini understands.

The launch of the probe follows a meeting between SDOE chief Yiannis Diotis and Defense Minister Dimitris Avramapoulos in the wake of tests on fuel samples taken from military vehicles. The test results — which suggest that regular diesel was being adulterated with cheaper fuel before being supplied to the armed forces — were submitted to Parliament last May by former minister and conservative New Democracy MP Panayiotis Sourlas and have since been forwarded to an economic prosecutor.

Some market experts, moreover, claim that up to half of the gas stations in Attica are selling adulterated fuel. One former gas station owner who preferred to remain anonymous told Kathimerini that inspectors faced a tough task. ?What is needed is a war on a large number of so-called professionals and of course the government doesn?t dare take them on,? he said. He added that the deepening recession would only make things worse ?as the pie shrinks and everyone clashes with everyone else for an ever smaller share of the market.? Further aggravating the situation is the fact that Greece has a disproportionately large number of gas stations — 743 per one million residents as compared to a European Union average of 260.

In the northern town of Veria and the western port of Patra, inspectors report that unidentified individuals visit gas stations and offer fuel at 60 percent of market prices. Meanwhile there appears to have been a major increase in bogus invoices for fuel exports to Bulgaria, according to a Finance Ministry official, who said that most of the businesses registered as the recipients do not exist.

Higher taxation, including the introduction of a special consumption tax on fuel, is one of the factors that has led fuel smuggling to thrive.