QCOSTARICA – The illegal sale of gasoline from one’s patio, especially in remote areas of the country is nothing new. Nor is the theft of gasoline from the RECOPE pipelines. What is new, of what could become a trend, is clandestine gas stations.
Such was the case in Siquirres, Limón, where two men operated two makeshift gas stations selling fuel of dubious origin, “siphoned” from tanker trucks.
A raid by the Organismo de Investigacion Judicial (OIJ) led to the detention of the two and seizure of some 3,000 liters of diesel fuel, pumps, and containers.
According to the OIJ, the sale of diesel and gasoline at a lower price than the official was camouflaged for two months in a ‘lubricentro’ (oil change) in La Herediana, district of Germania, and in a “llantera’ (tire repair station) in the district of Pacuarito.
Wálter Espinoza, director of the OIJ explained that the two men had conspired with the tanker drivers who moved fuel between Limón and the Central Valley in order to steal part of the load during the trip.
The customers of the lubricentro and the llantera were people from the community who had known, for a few weeks, where to buy fuel at a lower price.
The two detained men were identified as having the surnames Cubillo Carranza and Cruz Briones. A third suspect, named Sánchez Cordero, is wanted by the authorities since he was not at the raided sites.
Espinoza made it clear that the detainees face charges of aggravated theft, as well as the illegal sale, storage and reception of fuels.
Since last year, the Legislative Assembly approved a new law that more strongly punishes crimes related to the theft of state fuel*, as well as for trafficking or receiving illegally obtained products.
For the illegal transportation and distribution of fuels, the penalties range from one to four years in prison, while for the receipt of illegally obtained fuels is punishable from one to five years in prison.
The investigation is continuing.
This Thursday morning Costa Ricans woke to higher fuel prices: a liter of super gasoline is now ¢736, regular ¢721, and diesel ¢620.
The OIJ did not specify at what price the men sold their stash of gasoline.
*In Costa Rica, all fuels are sold to authorized gasoline stations by RECOPE, the state refinery that refines nothing. Fuel prices are set by the regulating authority and are the same nationwide at every gasoline sations, which are operated independently or part of a chain of fuel dispenses.