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March 17, 2010

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Gang nabbed for taking tons of fuel from vehicles on street

SHANGHAI police nabbed a gang of 30 people for allegedly stealing and robbing gasoline and diesel fuel from big vehicles on the street.

The gang was responsible for about 200 cases of theft, robbery and disposal of stolen gas in nine districts across the city, police said yesterday.

About 85 tons of diesel fuel and petrol were captured, along with a huge amount of cash and 13 vehicles refitted for stealing oil, police said.

The total value involved in the case was estimated 4.5 million yuan (US$659,152).

By yesterday 13 suspects of the gang had been arrested under the approval of the prosecutor's office and most of the illicit money returned to the victim companies.

Police said a series of diesel fuel theft cases was reported last October, causing numerous vehicle breakdowns, which attracted their attention.

The thefts were usually instigated by five or six people using at least two cars for cover.

With a homemade oil pump and tubes, the gang could suck out a fuel tank in just seconds, the police said.

"Sometimes even the driver of the victim car saw the crime happening, but he or she couldn't do anything about it because the suspects had more people sometimes with attacking tools like knives and clubs," said Liang Rongjun, officer of the Zhabei police.

The suspects, led by Wang Bao, refitted cars as oil tankers to carry away 300 to 400 liters of stolen gas every night, about 2,240 yuan worth.

The gang even made a makeshift gas station to sell the stolen diesel and petrol to passing vehicles at lower-than-market prices, earning thousands of yuan per month, police said.

The police said the oil was stored in an unidentified northern part of the city in a shabby workshop beside a paint factory - a serious potential safety hazard.

"The oil barrels were covered by carpets and none of us knew what was inside," said the paint factory director.

"Looking back at the case, the oil was like a huge time bomb."

Some suspects were drivers of oil company tank trucks who illegally sold oil to the gang and went unnoticed, a reflection of the loose management of those companies, the police added.

"There were problems during the oil transport and deposit," Liang said, appealing to the oil companies to pay more attention.

"Currently, gas station workers use dipsticks to measure the volume of the gas in the tank and the driver can easily cheat by changing the position of the truck."

The gang, including thieves led by Wang, townsmen of Wang who sold the stolen oil and drivers of oil companies, were investigated and rounded up from December to early this January, police said.


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