4 arrests in Spain for fuel theft by drilling oil pipeline

by Lorraine Williamson
oil pipline

SEVILLE – The Guardia Civil has arrested four people for stealing fuel by piercing oil pipelines. In total, 4,400 litres of fuel were stolen, of which 2,300 litres have been recovered. 

The stolen fuel was stored in small warehouses and hidden in trucks before being distributed and sold on the black market. The arrests took place in Utrera (Seville). 

Furthermore, one of the people arrested in the operation is the seller of a company in the fuel distribution sector in Espera (Cádiz, population 3,845), who is said to have collaborated with the criminal network. 

Big risks 

Drilling pipes that carry fuel is a very dangerous practice. Not only because of the environmental consequences but also because of the risks it entails. The Guardia Civil emphasises that “the manipulation of an oil pipeline by non-specialist personnel is extremely serious and dangerous”, since, depending on the type of hydrocarbon circulating through the pipeline, any type of spark or ignition can cause an explosion of immeasurable magnitude. 

Operation Benzino 

The investigation, known as ‘Operation Benzino’, was launched at the end of November last year and revealed the organisation’s sophisticated working method. El País writes, based on sources in the Guardia Civil, that the agents learned two months ago of an illegal connection that had been built in the Alcalá de Guadaira pipeline, seven kilometres from Utrera, where the alleged criminals were arrested. 

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“Highly specialised and perfectly structured network” 

Moreover, the 2,300 litres of recovered fuel had been taken from this pipe, the researchers estimated. To “pierce” the pipe, the gang had a specialist dedicated solely to perforation. This man was called “the surgeon”. Furthermore, they had access to the pipeline through hidden and difficult-to-access places. As a result, they were considered “a highly specialised and perfectly structured network” by agents. 

Method 

The method consisted of digging two metres deep to reach the pipeline, “piercing” it and then inserting a hose with a tap into it. This caused the stolen fuel to flow until it reached the tanks. These tanks were hidden in trucks parked nearby. 

Furthermore, the organisation had rented a farm on the outskirts of Utrera. This was used as a centre for economic and logistical operations for the distribution and sale of fuel. And, it was there contact was made with companies that could distribute the fuels. 

The representative of one of these companies is one of those arrested. During a search of the home of one of the suspects, the agents seized all kinds of equipment used for drilling underground pipes. These included pressure nanometres, hoses, perforators, night vision goggles, flashlights and radar detectors. 

Of the four arrested, three are currently in prison. They are being prosecuted for committing robberies with violence; membership in a criminal organisation; a crime against collective security. 

ASSSA

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