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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

FNC to discuss heavier penalties for petrol smugglers

FNC members will debate on Tuesday a government draft law that would set jail terms and fines for petroleum smugglers.

ABU DHABI // Heavier fines will be levied on petrol smugglers in the UAE’s drive to protect its petroleum industry.

FNC members will on Tuesday debate a legislative bill to jail petrol smugglers for between one and three years and impose a Dh500,000 fine for repeat offences.

The current penalty is a jail term and a Dh30,000 fine.

A national law is needed to govern the transfer, storage and trade of petroleum products and unlicensed parties should be penalised, FNC members say.

“The primary goal is to target negative practices, such as smuggling, to protect local companies that deal with petroleum, because they are being faced with unauthorised competition,” said Mohammed Al Kamali, an FNC member for Dubai.

In 2015, Omani authorities said they were watching for an increase in smuggling after the UAE raised oil prices.

At the time, experts said that lorries could carry between 500 litres and 1,200 litres of fuel and that smugglers could cross the border, empty their tanks and repeat the process up to three times a day at different border posts. Smugglers could make up to Dh2,900 a day.

In 2013, the UAE uncovered 85 cases of petrol smuggling – made up of 48 in Abu Dhabi, 11 in Dubai, 15 in Ajman, five in Sharjah and six in Ras Al Khaimah.

The new legislative bill, which is expected to be passed, also aims to address safety measures for the handling of petroleum and transfer equipment.

“Licensed parties often follow safety measures but the threat is from unlicensed ones,” said Mr Al Kamali.

He said unlicensed distributors often caused environmental and public safety hazards while trying to hide their goods from authorities.

“They store fuel in farms or place gas cylinders in houses, a factory or a warehouse,” said Mr Al Kamali. “If there is excess heat, it explodes and burns up the entire area.”

Individual emirates have their own laws to regulate such practices, which are often allied to issues such as the protection of water sources, environmental protection and customer care.

The goal is for a federal law to cover the economic, safety and transfer aspects.

The UAE’s environmental law forbids dumping petroleum at sea. If the offence includes smuggling, which is covered under the new legislative bill, the court will follow the law that imposes a tougher penalty, according to Mr Al Kamali.

The bill would curb illegal activities involving petroleum, said Ras Al Khaimah’s Environment Protection and Development Authority.

On Tuesday, the FNC will also discuss footballers’ salaries. Last week, FNC member Saleh Al Ameri called for an end to what he said was a trend of players’ wage inflation.

After a debate with Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development and Chairman of the General Authority of Youth and Sports Welfare, the FNC agreed to recommend the application of corporate governance standards on football clubs to monitor their financial activities and audit club managers’ finances.

hdajani@thenational.ae

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