A major police operation is underway across Spain against a ring that adulterated diesel fuel in connivance with many gas stations, which sold the subpar product to unsuspecting drivers.
By noon on Wednesday, 50 suspects had already been detained with over 100 arrests expected throughout the day, said sources at the Civil Guard, which has launched the raid jointly with the Customs Surveillance Service.
The suspects include businesspeople who work in the fuel industry, as well as criminals involved in drug trafficking and other activities.
The fraud could be worth between €5 million and €12 million a month, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
The ring added chemicals to eliminate the red coloring that identifies lower-grade diesel to pass it off as Type A
Several gas stations working under different brands – the Civil Guard did not disclose any names – are allegedly involved in the scam.
Ring members transformed Type B and C diesel fuels, which are used for farm machinery, fishing boats and heating – and cost an average €0.90 and €1 a liter in Madrid, respectively – into Type A diesel fuel, which is used by cars and trucks and costs €1.29 a liter.
Types B and C also get tax breaks, liable for special levies of just €0.078 per liter compared with €0.307 per liter for Type A.
Cheaper diesel is dyed red to distinguish it from the more expensive variety. The ring added chemicals to eliminate the coloring from the fuel and pass it off as Type A. Besides the economic fraud, these additional substances also cause damage to vehicles.
For an average tankful of diesel oil of around 50 liters, the fraud netted the ring a profit of around €13.
The Civil Guard is convinced that thousands of drivers have unwittingly used the adulterated diesel fuel.