Fuel trade inspections plunge amid rampant smuggling trend

The number of inspections being carried out to combat illicit fuel trade has fallen drastically, latest finance ministry data has shown, highlighting the absence of state action at a time when consumers are being called upon to boost tax revenues, including through fuel tax hikes.

Data made available showed that the number of inspections carried out between 2014 and the first half of 2016 have plummeted.

A total of 27,365 inspections were carried out in the fuel trading sector in 2014, while just 1,702 were conducted in the first half of this year. A mere 60 liters of unleaded fuel were confiscated amid this drastic slowdown. Diesel confiscations amounted to 6,260 liters.

In 2015, a total of 8,850 inspections were carried out, down by 67.6 percent compared to the previous year.

Tax hikes have just been imposed on heating fuel, as of October 15, while tax increases will also be imposed on auto fuel as of January 1.

Authorities claimed the lack of monitoring is the result of inefficient implementation of control mechanisms as well as a major staff shortage.

Trading data is being relayed to the finance ministry through an “inflow-outflow” data system installed at petrol stations to track purchases and sales, but officials are not utilizing the incoming data. The tracking system has apparently been installed at 99 percent of the country’s petrol stations but is not functional, as was once again pointed out last week by Yiannis Aligizakis, president of SEEPE, the Hellenic Petroleum Marketing Companies Association, at an industry event.