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Bulgarian Customs Stage Campaign to Crack Down on Fuel Black Market
Date: 13/07/2011
Bulgarian Customs Stage Campaign to Crack Down on Fuel Black Market

Bulgaria's Customs Agency is starting an all-out inspection campaign on fuel excise facilities after it has detected violations at the Lukoil Neftohim refinery in Burgas.

The move, which also features inspections on gasoline trucks by mobile groups, is supposed to crack down on a black market of fuel. The campaign will last 3 months, Customs Agency head Vanyo Tanov told BNT.

Customs inspectors have found that Lukoil Neftohim, Bulgaria's major oil refinery, which is also the largest in the Balkans, has not installed measuring devices that are supposed to provide the authorities with real-time information about the amounts of gas that the plant launches on the market.

While the company has declared that the number of such devices that they need to install is enormous, and it will make it by the end of 2011, the requirement stated that they do so by June 26, 2011.

"For the first time in Bulgaria, there will be information the same day about the consumption of gasoline, just like in America. Every single moment we will what amounts of gasoline are on the market, or in storage. Every government needs such information because, for example, where there was a natural gas crisis in 2009 nobody knew what our oil reserves were," Tanov has commented.

"If it is possible to deceive the state about the amounts of fuel, this can only happen at Lukoil Neftohim because they don't meet the requirements," he said.

The largest number of customs' mobile groups is stationed in the Black Sea Port of Burgas.

The Lukoil Neftohim refinery has in turn declared that customs inspections are welcomed at the plant.

On Tuesday, the head of the Bulgarian National Revenue Agency Krasimir Stefanov announced that the tax authority will be connected with the storage facilities controlled by the customs through new software. That will allow the authorities to compare the quantities that leave the storage with the sales on the market.

At the beginning of 2011, tapes of phone conversations of Tanov with other senior official, including Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, caused a scandal known as "Tapegate" in Bulgaria.

The tapes were leaked by the Galeria weekly, which is believed to be the mouthpiece of former secret agent Aleksei Petrov, arrested in the Octopus special operation in February 2010, and by the conservative Law, Order and Justice party, also believed to be connected to Petrov.

The tapped conversations, whose authenticity was never truly confirmed or denied, indicated evidence of political cover-ups on part of the Borisov government for certain companies in Bulgaria, including Lukoil, over alleged excise evasion.

Topic: Economy

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