Sovereign Base Areas (SBA) customs officials have revealed regular operations at the Pergamos and Strovilia crossing points have made a significant dent in the illegal smuggling of fuel from the north of the island, they said on Tuesday.
“As fuel prices continue to sky-rocket, regular operations have proved highly effective in stopping individuals and businesses attempting to buy low-cost fuel… and bring it into the SBAs and onwards into the Republic of Cyprus,” a statement said.
It said that in recent weeks, SBA Customs officials had identified suspicious activity, as commercial heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) were crossing multiple times a week, with some even attempting to cross several times daily.
Customs officers, who have been trained to detect vehicles modified for smuggling, used ‘advanced vehicle search techniques’ and discovered numerous HGVs using what were described as ‘adapted fuel tanks’ for the purpose of smuggling fuel.
Mark Hartley, Officer in Command of Eastern SBAs Customs, explained: “With low fuel prices in the north and the weakened lira, organised smuggling groups have attempted to benefit by moving vast quantities of fuel through the SBAs for sale on the black market in the Republic of Cyprus.”
Giving an example of the lengths some people will go to save money, he revealed that earlier this month, a commercial coach company had insured one of its fleet to drive into the north and attempted to use it as a ‘bowser’, making repeated journeys north to fuel up and then directly decant the fuel in the RoC to its 16 other vehicles.
He said the ‘bowser’ coach was immediately detained and a compound penalty of €1,480 was issued and paid in full in lieu of prosecution.
In other recent operations, fines totalling close to €6,000 have also been handed out to those attempting to smuggle low-cost fuel into the SBAs and beyond and according to Hartley, this should serve as a warning to those hoping to profit from the situation.
“It is unacceptable that persons attempt to cheat the system by trying to avoid tax revenue that is used to fund vital public services.
“The SBAs actions send out a clear message that any smuggling through the SBA Crossing Points will not be tolerated and those that attempt to evade controls will be identified, their property seized and they will be prosecuted.”