90% petrol pumps in Maharashtra might be tampered to dispense less fuel, police suspects

After several petrol pumps in Uttar Pradesh were found guilty of tampering with fuel calibration, Thane crime branch has now busted a state-wide petrol pump racket where customers are being duped by petrol pump owners by manipulating fuel dispensing machines through remote-controlled electronic chips.

Thane crime branch has sealed seven of the nine petrol pumps it raided in the last few days. The crime branch has arrested seven people, most of them petrol pump owners or managers. The petrol pumps are situated along the prominent roads and highways. Police estimate that each petrol pump must have pocketed Rs 5.5 lakh a month by dispensing around 5-7 per cent less fuel for every litre bought. These petrol pumps must have collectively pocketed around to Rs 15 crore, they say.

Reports suggest that technicians of six major companies that supply fuel dispensers to petrol pumps across the country have allegedly been colluded with the owners of these petrol pumps.

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“Prima facie, technicians involved in fitting these petrol vending machines are suspected to be involved. There are six major companies, also known as Original Equipment Suppliers (OES) that supply these vending machines across the country. We are taking the help of these companies to zero in on the technicians involved in the scam,” Thane Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh told The Indian Express.

“We suspect 90 per cent of the roughly 6,000 petrol pumps in the state to be fudged. Seven teams led by Deputy Commissioner of Police Abhishek Trimukhe have been sent across the state to raid petrol pumps. We suspect the scam has been on for at least a year,” he added.

Officials linked to the investigation reveal that the petrol pump owners embed electronic chip into the pulsar of the vending machine so that that less petrol than the quantity displayed on the machine could be dispensed. In addition, technocrats are said to be deployed to make changes into the software of vending machines. The system used by the accused is so sophisticated that even it eludes the Weights and Measures Department during tests.

Apart from Thane, there are reports of manipulation in dispensing machines in some petrol pumps in nearby Dombivali and Khopoli. Another 20 pumps in the tri-city region are being inspected over the past two weeks. Maharashtra Police suspects that the scam, which runs much wider, is a nation-wide syndicate.

In April, a similar ring was unearthed by Uttar Pradesh Police. So far, UP Special Task Force has carried out raids at various locations and arrested 27 petrol pump owners. UP Police is also in touch with its Maharashtra counterpart.

Thane crime branch had arrested one Vinay Shetye from Dombivali for being part of the petrol pump fraud in Uttar Pradesh. It was during the questioning that he revealed the names of some of these erring petrol pumps in Thane.

“Shetye’s gang manufactured the small pre-programmed chips that can infect metres at a petrol pump to show that the machine has disbursed more than it actually has,” Abhishek Trimukhe, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime), Pune said.

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