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Fuel checks beefed up at crossing points

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The government will increase checks at checkpoints to stop fuel smuggling from the Turkish-occupied north without violating the Green Line Trade agreement, said President Nikos Christodoulides.

President Christodoulides told reporters the government would step up checks at crossings to identify fuel smugglers for commercial gain.

The move comes after the association of petrol dealers protested unfair competition from illegal fuel imports from the north.

Tanker drivers drove to Nicosia’s Ayios Dhometios crossing, shortly blocking it before heading for the Presidential Palace.

“I want to be completely honest. Indeed, there is a problem,” Christodoulides told reporters.

“I also met them (petrol station owners) as Foreign Minister.

“I am very aware of the concerns; there is also the issue of unfair competition, especially when it is used for commercial purposes,” said the President.

“I understand when it is for private use, but when it is for commercial purposes, things are different”.

A Finance Ministry official told the Financial Mirror the decision to bolster checks at checkpoints was not taken under pressure from the petrol owners.

“Finance Minister Makis Keravnos had met with petrol station owners on 22 June and conveyed the government’s resolve to find solutions to the problem,” said Michalis Papadopoulos, the ministry’s spokesperson.

“In that sense, the demonstration served no real purpose,” he added.

Papadopoulos confirmed that checks would not violate the Green Line Agreement as interpreted by the European Commission.

Brussels and the government do not consider it illegal for Greek Cypriots to fill their tanks in the north.

“However, some have been transporting larger amounts of fuel in drums or hidden tanks installed underneath vehicles.

“For either selling it to third parties or filling up the vehicles of their commercial fleet,” he explained.

Warning letters will be sent to all associations with professional drivers to inform them of the measure and the imposition of severe financial penalties.

The possibility of using technology to upgrade the effectiveness of controls will also be considered.

The Customs Department will announce details on confiscations of fuel smuggled from the north at the crossings or elsewhere.

Custom checks at crossings will be strengthened, expected to cause longer queues for drivers waiting to cross over.

Random checks will be carried out on all types of vehicles.