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Stricter checks on fuel smugglers from north

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The government will introduce stricter rules at Green Line crossings to clamp down on abuses related to purchasing cheaper fuel from the Turkish-occupied north, said Energy Minister George Papanastasiou.

The minister’s statement comes as petrol station owners prepare to take to the streets on Tuesday, claiming that they are losing out because of the availability of cheaper fuel in the north.

Tanker drivers will descend on the capital, moving towards the Presidential Palace and then to the Ayios Dhometios crossing.

Petrol station owners claim that revenues have dropped 30% to 40% in Nicosia and 40% in Famagusta.

In comments to state radio CyBC, the minister said the objections of the petrol station owners had been fully noted but made it clear it is not illegal for Greek Cypriots to fill up in the north.

“However, trading fuel through the Green Line is prohibited and illegal,” said Papanastasiou.

He said authorities have found that some motorists also transport fuel in hidden tanks.

Last week police confiscated 160 litres of petrol from a driver between Kato Moni and Meniko villages.

Fuel from the north can be distinguished due to its different colour, as it does not contain biofuel like petrol sold at Republic pumps.

The minister said the measures the government planned to take would see customs officials stationed at the crossing carrying out stricter checks.

Papanastasiou said the government’s intention of introducing a “name and shame” policy regards those transporting industrial quantities of fuel from north to south with the intention of reselling it, not individuals.

“When such cases are found, we will publish their names”.

He clarified that the Green Line Regulation covers private citizens filling up their own cars in the north.

Social Democrat party EDEK said Monday the issue of buying fuel from the north is problematic on several levels, including protecting the environment and state revenue.

“Fuels from the occupied areas are outside the European Union’s specifications, and the consequences of their use cause a loss of revenue for the state, which could use it for social policies,” Edek added.

Meanwhile, the government will decide this week whether to continue a freeze on consumer tax on fuel and a government subsidy on electricity bills, which are set to expire at the end of June.

The relief measures introduced to buffer hiking inflation are set to expire on July 1, which would see fuel prices shoot up by eight cents per litre, and a €68.72 discount on electricity bills scrapped.