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Diesel racket fuelling crime, says minister

Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Derelict Brazilian oil tankers anchored off the waters of the Gulf of Paria for more than two years are awaiting clearance by the EMA. A total of 14 such ships are at present sitting in the Gulf, some leaking oil and diesel into the water. Members of the media were taken on a tour on Sunday to get a closer look at the pollution they were causing. PHOTO: MARCUS GONZALES

Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine says the illegal diesel racket is fuelling crime. He described the racket as “big business,” since the last three illegal bunkers discovered in Sea Lots were collectively worth close to $100 million. “There is a nexus between the illegal business of diesel and crime in T&T and drugs and guns in T&T. So I think at the heart of the crime problem really is the diesel racket,” Ramnarine added.



He said so on Monday night while speaking with reporters after the formal launch of the National Energy Skills Centre (NESC) $18.8 million drilling academy in Ste Madeleine. Ramnarine said he would be meeting with Environment Minister Ganga Singh this morning to discuss the number of shipwrecks in the Gulf of Paria and their connection to the illegal diesel racket. 



“Our information is some of those wrecks are being used by persons involved in the illegal export of diesel and that in some of those wrecks are tanks, as we discovered in Sea Lots. “So apart from being a safety and environment hazard it also facilitates illegal activity,” Ramnarine said. He said at the meeting they would discuss how to treat with the wrecks in the Gulf of Paria from Claxton Bay to Carenage.


“Some of them have diesel, some of them are leaking other things. Apart from being an eyesore, it is not good for the environment and it encourages criminal conduct,” the minister added. Ramnarine said he and National Security Minister Gary Griffith had discussed the link between the multi-million-dollar diesel racket and rampant crime. He said the ministry was looking at procuring equipment that allowed for the scanning of the coastline from a boat.


“That will tell you what is below the water,” he added. Ramnarine pointed to the discovery of a one-kilometre hose from Sea Lots to the Caricom jetty, Port-of-Spain, as evidence that the illegal diesel racket was an organised industry. “It is a very elaborate thing and if you have a business that is generating $100 million in sales, that is a big business, that is not a small business. Where is that money going and what is that money being used for?” he asked.


Ramnarine said the ministry’s intelligence had reported there was more illegal bunkering. He declined to comment on the sudden resignation of National Petroleum (NP) CEO Kenneth Mohammed, which was exclusively reported in the Sunday Guardian. Ramnarine said: “I have not been formally notified by the board of the resignation of the CEO.” He said all he knew about the suspended CEO’s resignation was what he had read in the newspaper.


“Until I am formally notified I would not be able to speak about it. There is acting CEO Kevin Motilal and so provisions are put in place for continuity,” Ramnarine said.


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