Cooking gas for vehicles tax scam busted

Police have filed charges against the owners of 64 cooking gas refilling plants, for illegally supplying gas to outlets selling liquified petroleum gas (LPG) to motorists.

Owners of cooking gas refilling plants are summoned to the Crime Suppression Division on Thursday to hear charges of illegally selling gas to LPG vehicle refuelling outlets. (Photo by Surapol Promsaka na sakolnakorn)

They were summoned to the Crime Suppression Division on Thursday to hear the charges after an investigation involving police and the Energy Ministry.

Investigators looked at records and other evidence relating to 460 refilling factories for cooking gas nationwide. They confirmed that 64 plants had violated the law by deciding not to fill gas cylinders for household use, and instead sell the LPG to outlets catering to motor vehicles, Worapong Chiewpreecha, a deputy national police chief, said on Thursday.

The government controls the price of LPG for household use, which is about 3 baht a kilogram cheaper than the retail price of LPG for use by vehicles.

The probe began on April 5, with investigators looking into evidence going back more than a year, after the ministry noted a 16% rise in orders for household cooking gas to 8,700 tonnes a day from refilling plants.

It suspected the increase was driven by the plant operators selling gas to LPG vehicle service stations. Orders for LPG for transport use stood at 2,900 tonnes per day.

After the inquiry, orders for household-use LPG dropped to 6,400 tonnes and orders for transport-use LPG rose to 5,000 tonnes, Lt Gen Worapong said.

Lt Gen Worapong, who leads the investigation, said he expected action would be taken against other cooking gas refilling plants as investigators find more evidence against them.

The difference between cooking gas and transport prices entices plant operators to break the law by secretly supplying gas to stations supplying motor vehicles. Cooking gas for household use is priced at 18.13 baht per kilogram, while LPG prices for transport are 21.38 baht/kg.

Illegal gas suppliers pocketed the 3 baht difference and were costing the state an estimated 9 million baht a day in lost tax revenue.

Violators could be fined no more than 100,000 baht, with a maximum prison term of 10 years, or both. Their licence also could be suspended or revoked.

Lt Gen Worapong said operators of the cooking gas plants placed orders for cylinders of gas, but instead often  directed their trucks to deliver the gas to LPG stations. Some operators had even installed a secret pipeline linking their plants to the LPG vehicle stations, he added.

Suwanna Trongtamphan, an official at the Energy Business Department, said the ministry decided to work with police to tackle the problem after realising just how difficult it was working alone trying to stop the scam.

Related search: cooking gas, lpg, police, energy

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Writer: Wassayos Ngamkham
Position: Reporter