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Cyprus

Fuel checks to target illicit trade only, government says (Updated)

The Ayios Dhometios crossing in Nicosia

Any checks at crossing points in connection with fuel bought in the north will only concern prevention of illegal trade, the government said on Thursday, as it became clear that a customs department announcement that it was stepping up inspections, including taking samples from vehicles’ fuel tanks was issued without political authorisation.

“The state’s policy is for citizens to be able to move across the Republic’s entire territory, in line with what is provided for by the special Green Line Regulation,” government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said in a written statement.

Any customs department inspections will only target illicit trade, he added.

“The government does not intend nor it will obstruct the movement of ordinary citizens,” he said.

Ruling Disy leader Averof Neophytou said that the political direction as regards the Cyprus problem was the responsibility of the country’s elected leadership.

“Unfortunately, recent actions by public services clearly relay differing messages from the declared position of the president and Disy in favour of a solution,” Neophytou tweeted.

The customs department caused a stir on Wednesday after it issued a statement announcing it would be stepping up checks on vehicles at crossing points and seize fuel bought in the north.

The department warned that vehicles could even be confiscated.

Although it did not specify in its announcement, the department implied it would be targeting Greek Cypriots who have been increasingly filling their tanks in the north, taking advantage of the much lower price of fuel.

According to the statement, the law affords customs officers the power to stop and search any vehicle and take samples for testing or seize products whose tax has not been paid in the Republic.

“The power in question extends to the vehicle itself which is subject to confiscation,” the department said.

Customs said the sulphur content of diesel sold in the north did not meet the standards applied by the Republic, which were set by the energy ministry.

The sulphur content is higher and thus in violation of the fuel standards law, it added. There was no mention of how petrol would be tested.

“In the event of illegal transport of fuel from the occupied areas, irrespective of them being in portable tanks or the vehicle’s fuel tank, these will be confiscated and those involved will be subject to the penalties stipulated by the law,” the department said.

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