The compartment can store around 100 litres of diesel, fetching up to Rs. 35,000 per day: police

An indigenously designed “secret compartment” was allegedly used by at least six arrested persons for pilfering petrol and diesel while transporting fuel in tankers from oil depots to fuel stations.

According to the police, the men who were arrested on Saturday were led by U.B. Ashok (33), owner of Sri Ullalthi Transport, who had been running the operation for more than four years.

Mangalore City Police Commissioner Manish Kharbikar told presspersons here on Sunday that a compartment in a tanker could store around 100 litres of diesel, which would be sold in the black market.

Based on a tip off, the police arrested Ashok, Sukumar (28), Chidananda (21), Kushalappa (25), Udayakumar (35), and S.K. Smikhil (20). The police are in the process of seizing the seven tankers owned by Mr. Ashok, and have seized Rs. 3 lakh in cash which was allegedly offered as bribe during the arrests.

Modus operandi

The modus operandi was explained as such by the police: when the oil tanker is filled in the depot, the hidden compartment, which comes over the manifold box (to drain out the fuel) is also filled; and hence, the gauge records the actual amount filled. During the transport, the latch of the manifold box — which is locked and for which only the depot manager and station owners have the key — is removed and the valve of the secret compartment is closed. A garage in Tannirbhavi fixes the latch back and seals it with an adhesive sealant. With the gauge still recording the original filled amount of fuel, the station owner is unaware that 100 litres is not accessible while draining the fuel in the station. The stolen fuel is then sold in the black market — that is, at a much lower price — in Karwar, Shimoga, Madikeri, Hassan, and Udupi.

Although the magnitude of the profits of the pilferage can only be known after further investigation,

Mr. Karbikar said the method yielded high dividends, estimated at Rs. 35,000 per day, which saw Mr. Ashok transforming from being a tank cleaner to the owner of seven tankers in just four years.

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