A full tank for free
MBABANE – Police are investigating a syndicate that steals fuel from various fill-ing stations around the city, costing proprietors thou-sands of Emalangeni.
Currently, about 15 cases have been reported to the police.
Among filling stations affected is Total Gardens.
The suspected syndicate has all along been visiting the filling station, filling up their vehicles and later disappearing without paying. This normally happens at night when it is quiet.
In most cases, the motorists reportedly tell the petrol attendant to fill up the fuel tank knowing they will not pay.
After the petrol attendant has filled up the vehicle, the person driving it simply leaves without saying a word.
It has been established that in most cases, the culprits change the number plates of their vehicles in order for them not to be traceable.
This has made it difficult for the police to trace them.
Superintendent Wendy Hlleta, Police PRO, says there have a number of reports from various filling stations.
Hleta said when such cases are reported, an investigation is then launched.
"In most cases, it becomes difficult to trace such cases especially because these people come with different tricks," she said.
"They have a tendency of leaving the filling station while the petrol attendant is still busy closing the tank. At times they pay with counter fake notes".
Hleta said if they have been able to trace the culprits, they are then charged and the law normally takes its course.
"However, we have always been advising petrol attendants to be careful whenever they attend to customers, especially at night," she said.
"We always say it is best for the attendant not to fill up any vehicle without being given the money upfront. They should take the money and thereafter fill up the vehicle. It is also important that whenever the person pays with South African notes, they should be check if they are not counter fake notes."
Meanwhile, Thembi Motsa, Manager at the Total Gardens Garage confirmed that there were a number of instances where people would visit the filling station and pretend as if they wanted to buy fuel. However after their vehicles have been filled, they then live without paying.
Motsa said they have gone to the extent of adding closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras in order to see everything that happens within the filling station’s forecourt.
"In some of the cases, we have been able to spot the vehicle’s number plates," Motsa said.
"These cameras can produce images or recordings for surveillance purposes, and can be either video cameras, or digital stills cameras.
"However, at times this does not work because some of these people change the vehicle’s number plates. Whenever we trace the vehicle’s number plates, it sometimes turns out that it does not belong to the one who came to the filling station."
Motsa said what made it worse was that in this industry, it was emphasised that they had to first satisfy the customer before he or she pays.
"That is why others then take a chance and drive away without paying," she said.
"We report such cases to the police who then investigate. We always rely on their investigations because it is not easy to find a person who has done such."
She said of late, they had been having problems with cheques that end up being dishonoured by banks.
"As a result, we have decided not to allow people to pay using cheques because in most cases the cheques cannot be cashed."