Fifteen truckloads of smuggled petroleum products worth GH¢1.4 million have been impounded.
Officials of the National Petroleum Authority (NPA), in collaboration with security personnel, impounded the 15 trucks last week.
Each of the trucks was loaded with 54,000 litres of either petrol or diesel.
The Chief Executive Officer of the NPA, Mr Hassan Tampuli, disclosed this in an interview with the Daily Graphic last Saturday.
Five drivers had been picked up for questioning, he said, and noted that others were also being investigated.
Method of operation
The smuggling of petroleum products has been of great concern to the NPA and the oil marketing companies (OMCs), as it negatively affects government’s revenue and the profit margins of the OMCs.
The country risks losing GH¢1.5 billion in taxes and levies in 2017 due to incidents of smuggling of fuel products.
Ghana lost an estimated GH¢800 million in 2016 as a result of the problem, which peaked last year.
But for smuggling, Ghana would gain more than GH¢5 billion in revenue in 2017.
The Association of Oil Marketing Companies (AOMCs) had, earlier this year, expressed its frustration at a press conference, during which it called on the government to halt the incident, which was fast crippling their businesses and creating job losses.
The President of the AOMCs, Mr Kwaku Agyemang-Duah, said more than 4,000 jobs would be lost this year if nothing was done about the problem.
Culprits pose as exporters, enjoy low taxes and subsequently divert fuel products they are expected to export to Mali and Burkina Faso back to Ghana and sell them at prices lower than those of the OMCs, whose prices contain full-blown taxes/levies.
The products which are supposed to be exported find their way back onto the local market through illegal channels and are sold on table tops at lorry parks across the country.
Worried about the turn of events, the NPA and other stakeholders have been collaborating, resulting in the seizure of the 15 trucks.
“The joint operation involving the military, the police, personnel from National Security and NPA staff also arrested some drivers believed to be members of the fuel dumping syndicate in Tema who had in their possession fake documents and fake Malian number plates.
“The drivers of some of the impounded trucks are currently in the custody of the police and helping the police in their investigations,” Mr Tampuli said.
According to him, the arrests were effected around 5 p.m. on September 12, 2017.
“The NPA received intelligence from the National Security regarding a suspicious export loading activity of petroleum products that had been carried out by some individuals with trucks stationed at a yard in Tema around Kpone, intending to dump the products at local retail outlets.
“The operation team subsequently moved to the vicinity of the reported illegality around 7 p.m. to initially survey the area and plan for the arrest of the individuals and the bulk road vehicles (BRVs) involved.
“Following the survey, the team scheduled a raid and arrest of the parties involved on the morning of Tuesday, September 12, 2017,” he disclosed.
He said the modus operandi of the syndicate was to lift products from depots in the country using trucks with fake Malian numbers. The products are declared for export to Mali but dumped on the Ghanaian market.
Mr Tampuli disclosed that two parking yards belonging to the syndicate were uncovered around Kpone near Tema where the syndicate parked the loaded trucks and replaced the fake Malian number plates with local ones.
“Fake invoices, marking certificates and documents are then generated by the syndicate before the product is later sold to consumers in Ghana through retail outlets who collude with the syndicate.
“The activities of syndicates such as this lead to huge loss of revenue to the state. The revenue that would have accrued to the government goes to the pockets of these individuals.
“Currently, taxes, levies and margins form about 49 per cent of the ex-pump price and since export products are not taxed, the syndicate behind this activity would have pocketed an estimated GH¢1.4 million if it had sold these products in Ghana,” he noted.
Mr Tampuli gave an assurance that the NPA was conducting further investigations, in close collaboration with the security agencies, to ensure that the revenue losses resulting from the unscrupulous dealers would be curtailed.
He emphasised that the NPA would stop at nothing in its unshaken resolve to sanitise the export trade, including the withdrawal of licences, prosecution and blacklisting of recalcitrant culprits.
Asked what the seized petroleum products would be used for, he said: “We will decide after consulting with stakeholders.”