Friday, December 1, 2023

Gas stations use plug-in to distort sales volumes and sell stolen fuel

Scores of gas stations in Mexico allegedly use an illegal software plug-in that allows them to manipulate the sales figures they report to Pemex and tax authorities, and conceal the sale of stolen fuel.

As many as one-third of Mexico’s 12,000 gas stations use a software program called ControlGas, which was created by the company Atio Group in 1997.

Installed on a gas stations’ pumps, the software precisely records the amount of fuel that is purchased and sold, and sends the data to the state oil company and the Federal Tax Administration (SAT) on a daily basis as required by law.

But according to two former unnamed company employees, Atio Group – which is owned by Pablo César Gualdi, a former president of the Mexican Association of Service Station Suppliers (Ampes) –  doesn’t just sell ControlGas but also an illegal plug-in known as El Rastrillo (The Razor).

The plug-in allows the pumps’ volume controls to be altered, with gas station owners choosing between options that enable them to report sales that are 5%, 10% or 15% below their real level.

“Basically, it’s a program that’s added to ControlGas to shave off liters and fudge the numbers that are reported to the government,” one employee told the newspaper Milenio.

“This parallel software allows the reports that are sent to Pemex, of purchases, sales and stock, to be altered . . . if you shave off or cut off liters, you can sell stolen fuel,” said the other employee, who was fired for refusing to sell the illegal plug-in.

“I was able to see how the system was used in several gas stations,” he added.

Both former employees have received death threats, Milenio reported. Atio Group management didn’t respond to requests for an interview, the newspaper said.

The illicit scheme hasn’t gone unnoticed by the federal government, which is currently cracking down on fuel theft by deploying the military to protect Pemex infrastructure and closing several major petroleum pipelines.

Santiago Nieto, chief of the Finance Secretariat’s Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF), said recently that 194 gas stations are under investigation for altering their pumps’ volume controls and reporting income and expenditure that don’t add up.

On January 14 he said that many gas stations located near petroleum pipelines sell stolen fuel, explaining that the UIF had detected 10 billion pesos (US $526.5 million) in funds that are linked to the commercialization of stolen fuel and “laundered in the Mexican financial system.”

Source: Milenio (sp) 

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