Massive racket at fuel stations busted in Maharashtra

In a major crackdown, the Maharashtra Police have busted a multi-crore-rupee international scam involving siphoning off fuel by petrol vendors in the state and arrested 23 persons, an official said on Wednesday.

The racket involved replacing the oil marketing company’s Integrated Circuits (IC) with unauthorized ICs made by the accused and implanting them in the dispenser unit of the petrol pumps.

“With this illegal IC, despite the dispenser unit showing a certain display to the buyers, at least 4 to 30 percent less petrol/diesel per litre was actually dispensed without altering the metre reading,” said Police Commissioner Parambir Singh.

The matter came to light following a confidential tip received from the Uttar Pradesh Police who had arrested one of the kingpins of the racket in May, Vivek Harishchandra Shetye, 47, of Dombivli (Thane) in Lucknow district.

Thane police investigation took them to a petrol pump, Arman Sales, on the outskirts of the city where such an illegally altered IC, sold by Shetye and his associates, was implanted in the dispenser units. It was raided and sealed on June 16, said Singh.

Thane Crime Branch’s Senior Police Inspector Nitin Thakare, who played a key role in the investigation, said the accused procured such ICs from China and after programming them, sold them to petrol vends in Maharashtra and the rest of India, besides petrol outlets in South Africa, Saudi Arabia and other countries.

The Thane police arrested the mastermind of the racket, Prashant Nulkar, 56, from Karnataka’s Hubli and produced him before a court here which remanded him to police custody till July 15.

After the expose, Thane Police set up multiple probe teams which fanned out across Maharashtra and have so far raided 96 petrol pumps in 16 districts.

“They include 48 petrol pumps of Indian Oil Corp Ltd, 36 of Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd, eight of Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd and four of Essar,”

The police seized 195 pulsar cards, 22 sensor cards, 71 control cards and 61 keypads which have been sent for testing by the respective companies labs.

The police have arrested 23 accused including two petrol pump owners, six managers, 12 technicians and three software engineers involved in the huge scam – from Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur and other places.

They are on the lookout for another 14 accomplices.

Singh said the accused conspired to cheat customers by implanting such illegal ICs to dispense petrol and diesel much less than what was actually displayed on the dispenser unit, thereby skimming off hundreds of litres of valuable fuel daily.

“Since the metre reading showed the correct dispensation of the fuel demanded, the customer had no idea he was being cheated and paid the full amount though he was given lesser quantity,” Thakare explained.

Some of the accused were former employees of big fuel dispensing unit manufacturers.

They used their expertise with the manufacturers to tamper with the various components of the fuel dispenser units like nozzle, pulsar cards, sensor cards and control cards to cheat customers.

Singh said as the probe deepened, several petrol pump owners shut down their dispensing units and some replaced the ICs. But all such suspects shall be fully investigated and will be booked.