Island’s fuel trafficking crackdown sees results

By James Donald, Special to The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Government attempts at an island-wide crackdown on fuel trafficking amid soaring oil prices have made strong headway, yet fishermen have presented a hurdle to authorities as they continue to resell their subsidized fuel to motorists on the black market, according to the latest study done by the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ (MOEA) Energy Commission.

“I think we’ll see this kind of positive progress continue as the crackdown unfolds throughout this year,” predicted Wang Yun-ming, deputy director general for the Energy Commission. Illegal fuel sales in the first four months of this year have been reduced by 68 percent year-on-year, the MOEA announced yesterday. The results of the crackdown, a coordinated effort between the central and local governments throughout Taiwan, began to put pressure on blackmarket fuel sales last year, yielding a total of 87 arrests of petroleum traffickers and the seizure of 221 kiloliters of fuel. An overwhelming 196 kiloliters of the total was diesel fuel. Wang explained the major source of supply to the underground market was fishermen who resell their subsidized fuel for a profit. Demand has so far been fueled by drivers of larger automobiles, Wang said, whose trucks use diesel similar to that of fishermen’s ships. However, severe punishments for perpetrators were explained by the bureau to have helped lower the figure. Apart from heavy fines, the boat owner will face a one-year suspension of his fishing license for a first offense, having his license revoked altogether if he repeats the offense.

The survey’s results indicated fuel peddling in the north of the island was markedly lower than in the south. However, the study also revealed the majority of trafficking in the north has been in petroleum, which is less often used by fishing ships, and of the 221 kiloliters of fuel seized, an underwhelming 25 kiloliters was petroleum. “Since the beginning of the crackdown, many of the traffickers have become increasingly evasive, going into hiding or relocating to avoid capture,” continued Wang, making it more difficult to catch the perpetrators. Also, with domestic oil prices set to rise, the bureau expects an increase in illegal oil trading, which it said will jeopardize both public safety and fair market competition.

According to Taiwan’s Petrol Administration Law, convicted underground fuel traffickers can face fines between NT$1 million and a maximum of NT$5 million.

The Energy Commission appealed to motorists to help the government’s attempt to stop the illegal sale of fuel, offering rewards from NT$30,000 to NT$70,000 for those who assist in the arrest of traffickers.

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