State oil for stealing | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 22, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, May 22, 2012

State oil for stealing

Over 3 lakh litres furnace oil sold to non-existing factories, headed for water vessels; Rab nabs 23, tries to track down the racket


Rab seized this oil tanker and arrested 23 men, inset, Sunday midnight at Anu Majhir Ghat in Chittagong while they were smuggling more than 3 lakh litres of furnace oil for the black market. Photo: Anurup Kanti Das

Rapid Action Battalion seized more than 3 lakh litres of furnace oil from Anu Majhir Ghat in Chittagong on Sunday night when the fuel was being hauled for black market, said the elite crime fighting force yesterday.
The oil was dispatched from a Padma Oil depot, said Rab officials.
Acting on a tip-off, a team of Rab-7 conducted a drive at the Karnuphuli River bank under Double-Mooring Police Station around 11.30pm on Sunday making the seizure and arresting 23 people when they were loading the hauled oil into an oil-tanker.
The Rab personnel seized the oil-tanker named OT Prianka and 11 tank-lorries, each of which has the capacity of holding 8,000 litres of oil, said Rab-7 Deputy Commanding Officer Maj Mohammad Ziaul Ahsan Sarwar, adding that four of the lorries already had transferred oil to the tanker while the others were still full.
The seized oil-tanker was containing 2,18,000 litres of furnace oil.
Rab sources said they suspect there had been other hauls like this which had not got caught.
Kazi Ali Hossain, manager (sales) of Padma Oil, however said there is no evidence that the hauled oil is from Padma Oil, but they will investigate the matter.
Rab-7 officials said they had been monitoring the ghat area for the last three days.
Maj Ziaul told The Daily Star that Rab members challenged an oil carrying tank-lorry going towards Anu Majhir Ghat area on Saturday, but the driver showed a receipt and told them that the oil was being carried from a ship-breaking yard in Fauzderhat.
"We started investigating the matter and observed the oil loading and unloading process," he said.
Fifteen oil carrying tank-lorries got out of the Padma Oil depot located at Patenga from 4:00pm to 6:00pm on Sunday, he said adding that 11 out of the 15 reached Anu Majhir Ghat.
Rab members yesterday visited the Padma Oil distribution centre at Sadarghat and found that 1.2 lakh litres of furnace oil had been dispatched from the depot for 15 companies on Sunday.
The names of the 15 companies are: Thandachari Tea Garden, Omar Sultan Dying and Spinning Mills, Pacific Steel Mills, Mack Steels Industries, Motaleb Steel Mills, Clipton Apparels Ltd, Rupali Chemical Ltd, Azizuddin Industries, Jamuna Fertiliser and Agro Chemical Ltd, Sabab Re-rolling Industries, AK Steel Ltd, N Alam Steel Ltd, Bangladesh Steel Re-rolling Mills, Anan Re-rolling Mills, and Nayek Steel Re-rolling Mills.
Signature of one Suman was found as the dealer for 11 of the companies in the documents seized by Rab, said Maj Ziaul.
Maj Rakibul Amin, deputy director of Rab-7 who led the operation, said after investigation they did not find existence of the 11 companies.
But Md Asif Malek, manager (marketing) of Padma Oil, said all those companies have been regularly buying furnace oil from the state-run company for the last 5 to 6 years.
SM Rejoan Hossain, acting chairman of Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC), which controls Padma Oil, said they are investigating the incident to find out whether there was any wrongdoing.
"The party took the delivery in a right manner. But we don't know why the party was taking the oil there. There could have been criminal or other intention behind the incident," he said.
He said the companies of BPC market the products on recommendations from a three-member sales committee. The companies make the delivery on the basis of the committee report.
Furnace oil seekers have to apply with the sales committee to buy the fuel. Only listed companies can buy oil from Padma, he said.
Furnace oil is not supposed to be sold on the open market, said Mozammel Haque, manager (admin) of Padma Oil.
Another official of BPC said there are some misuses of the system, as some companies who buy oil from BPC subsidiaries sell the fuel on the black market.
"Sometimes, the companies buy more oil than necessary. We heard that companies out of operation also bought furnace oil to sell on the black market," said the official on condition of anonymity.
"Local and foreign ships also buy furnace oil from the black market in Chittagong as ships run on furnace oil," said the official.
Officially, Jamuna Oil Ltd is the only company that is allowed to sell furnace oil to local and foreign ships, but Jamuna cannot meet the demand. Under the circumstances, for foreign ships that could not get oil from Jamuna, the only legal option is to buy the fuel from Singapore at a higher price, he said.
That is why they prefer to buy the oil from the black market in Chittagong, the official added.
"This is an open secret. Every body knows about it. The law enforcing officials also know about it," said the BPC official.
Brick-kilns, tea estates, rubber gardens, re-rolling mills, and cottage industries also consume furnace oil, he added.
Another source at BPC said Jamuna Oil has not been selling furnace oil to foreign ships since January 2011, which actually widened the scope for black marketing.
Jamuna officials at Chittagong could not say why the company stopped selling the fuel to foreign ships. An energy ministry probe also recommended that the government takes action against Jamuna Oil for stopping the sale of furnace oil to foreign ships, said a Jamuna official on condition of anonymity.
Rab-7 Deputy Commanding Officer Ziaul said when they asked for the list of companies that get oil from Padma, the officials of the company could not show any such list.
He also said they suspect high level officials of Padma are involved in black marketing of furnace oil.
He said Rab is preparing to file a case in connection with the haul implicating the detained 23 and the three-member sales committee of Padma Oil.
[Md Fazlur Rahman and Tarek Mahmud also contributed to this report]

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