Police in Vietnam have broken up an illegal ring that they say has produced an enormous amount of fake gasoline and distributed the counterfeit fuel in seven provinces and cities throughout the country.
The bust is the result of a police investigation that lasted nearly a year, Colonel Le Van Tuyen, director of the police department in the Central Highlands province of Dak Nong, announced in a press conference on Thursday.
A total of 23 suspects have been arrested so far, Col. Tuyen stated.
The investigation into the illicit activities was initiated in June 2018, after a car suddenly caught fire in Dak Nong Province.
A police probe into the incident found that low-quality gasoline was the cause and later discovered that three filling stations in Gia Nghia Town, Dak R’lap Town, and Dak Glong District were selling the fake fuel.
|The Dak Nong Department of Police organizes a press meeting on June 6, 2019. Photo: Trung Tan / Tuoi Tre|
The provincial police department arrested nine suspects for crimes related to the case on March 14, 2019 and immediately initiated legal proceedings against the group.
Officers continued their probe and raided six locations in Ho Chi Minh City and three Mekong Delta localities -- Can Tho City and Hau Giang and Soc Trang Provinces -- between May 28 and June 2.
Fourteen other ring members were apprehended as a result.
Hundreds of millions of liters
Preliminary information released by police shows that the ring had spent approximately VND3 trillion (US$129 million) purchasing solvent for the production of their fake gasoline since January 2017.
About six million liters of the counterfeit fuel was produced on a monthly basis.
The product was distributed in seven localities, namely Dak Nong and Dak Lak Provinces in the Central Highlands, Can Tho, Hau Giang, and Soc Trang in the Mekong Delta, Ho Chi Minh City, and the south-central province of Khanh Hoa.
|Samples of fake fuel and solution are displayed at the press conference. Photo: Trung Tan / Tuoi Tre|
During the series of raids, officers confiscated more than three million liters of different types of solution used to create fake fuel, 50 kilograms of colorants, three ships, six fuel trucks, and five pumps.
Production was originally carried out at local filling stations before the gang decided to move its operation to private warehouses and ships in order to avoid detection.
Trinh Suong, an oil and gas tycoon in the Mekong Delta province of Son Trang, is among the key members of the ring. Suong was detained for investigation on June 4.
The investigation is ongoing.