New Delhi, London – Indian Police in Rajasthan have busted a gang accused of smuggling more than 50 million liters of crude oil inside water tankers from the country’s largest onshore oilfield, a police official said.
The gang had purchased land adjacent to the refinery and dug a tunnel to tap the pipeline owned by the state-run Hindustan Petroleum.
The theft of oil at the Cairn India oilfield went undetected for nearly six years until the arrest of 25 people this week for their involvement in the sophisticated smuggling network.
Local media reported that US$7.75 million worth of oil could have been stolen in total from the oilfield run by a subsidiary of British mining giant Vedanta Resources.
More than 75 people, many drivers and contractors working at the oilfield, are still wanted in connection with the heists, said district police Chief Gangandeep Singla.
Singla told AFP that the company suspected something suspicious was happening and filed a complaint. Investigations soon confirmed their suspicions.
He said the drivers were authorized to carry water, a byproduct in oil exploration, from exploration sites for dumping, but some of the tankers were filled with crude oil instead.
The drivers were disabling their GPS devices to avoid tracking and detection. More than 30 trucks have been seized, with numbers likely to grow, police said.
The oil was sold to two small factory owners nearby, who stockpiled the crude in underground tanks before selling it on to clients across India. The stolen oil was used in road construction and diesel production, police said.
In February, police in Uttar Pradesh arrested nearly a dozen people accused of stealing US$15.5 million worth of petroleum from a high pressure refinery pipeline in the northern state.