Dubai Police target black-market diesel

A police task force set up last year has been credited with curbing sales of black-market diesel in Jebel Ali by 20 per cent.

DUBAI // A police task force set up last year has been credited with curbing sales of black-market diesel in Jebel Ali. Cases of diesel theft reported to Jebel Ali police station dropped by more than 20 per cent in 2009 compared with the previous year; 18 cases were reported in 2008 and 14 in 2009. And in the first half of this year, only six cases were registered at the police station.

Lt Col Abdul al Qader al Bannai, the Jebel Ali police station director, attributes the reduction to a task force set up with other police departments at the start of 2009 to curb both diesel theft and the selling of otherwise illegally obtained diesel. While the problem of illegal diesel sales exists across Dubai, police say it is more common in Jebel Ali because of the industrial nature of the area.

Lt Col al Bannai said black market diesel posed serious health and fire hazards. "Those who sell the illegal diesel do not have the right equipment to transport or store the diesel, making it a high risk in the area." Police say the crime is carried out by individuals transporting the diesel in small tankers, rather than by organised criminal groups. Sometimes the diesel is smuggled into the country and sometimes it is stolen.

There are several communication towers in the Jebel Ali area, an easy target for diesel thieves as they are in remote areas and near to roads, police say. Diesel is stored near the towers to run their power generators. In June, the Dubai Court of Misdemeanours sentenced a 19-year-old man to two months in jail for stealing 294 gallons of diesel from an Etisalat broadcast tower in Jebel Ali in January. The man sold the diesel - valued at Dh3,454 - for Dh8 per gallon, about 20 per cent less than the legal retail price.

"We have intensified our patrols in areas where the broadcast towers are," Lt Col al Bannai said. "We have also asked communication companies to step up their security by placing more cameras to monitor the towers. We have provided training for security guards to be able to better spot suspicious activity and report it to us. "Our security plan to curb the practice is bearing fruit, and the cases registered are dropping," he said.