GEA successfully combats fuel smuggling
As part of efforts to curb the fuel smuggling trade the Guyana Energy Agency has sought to engage in several new methods. This is according the GEA Head, Mahender Sharma.
Alluding to figures Sharma said that over the past two years, sixteen persons have been successfully prosecuted and convicted for fuel smuggling out of a total eighteen cases.
Further, as it relates to measures which have been put in place to deal with the issue, Sharma said the agency has been conducting continuous and thorough sampling exercises throughout Guyana. These exercises, he said, are aimed at monitoring, detecting and confiscating any marker and/ or fuel that may be have been used or marked in an unauthorized manner.
In addition, these exercises led to the apprehension and prosecution of persons associated with any such illegal activity. “This forms the premise of the Fuel Marking Programme that commenced in 2003,” Sharma added.
He further lamented that the GEA legislation was amended last year to provide for the enforcement and prosecution of persons involved in the illegal trade.
He however noted that GEA cannot further describe any technical measures implemented due to non-disclosure of such sensitive information, but stated that systems have been put in place to deal with the issue of illegal fuel marking.
Sharma said that as it relates to penalties for persons found guilty of fuel smuggling, the fine provided for by legislation is $3 million. There is also a three-year jail sentence.
Responding to questions of the penalties being a good enough deterrent, Sharma said, “To say that the penalty alone is a sufficient deterrent would be inapt”. He added that a combination of an effective marking system, thorough and stringent monitoring by GEA officials, sensitization of the public to the consequences of fuel smuggling and the penalties imposed in relation to fuel smuggling offences have and will continue to eradicate fuel smuggling.
“Records will show that from 2006 to 2011, the percentage of identified sites found with illegal fuel has progressively decreased from 34 per cent in 2006 to two per cent in 2011″.
Only last week, Sharma said, an investigation was launched into an incident where a Venezuelan vessel exploded, seriously injuring four of its crew members, two of whom have since died. The men all received burns to most parts of their body and are receiving treatment at the Georgetown Public Hospital.
Initial reports are that the men may have been carrying a large amount of fuel on their vessel and were encountering some problems with their fuel pump. In the process of trying to fix the problem there was an explosion and fire in the engine room of the boat. It is also believed that the men may have been smuggling fuel at the time of the incident. The GEA head said his agency is looking into the matter.
Over the years, fuel smuggling has been a big issue for local authorities who have often complained about limited resources when it comes to manning the porous borders.