Sophisticated oil thefts threat to all markets, says Dr Ian Ralby
Oil theft is becoming more sophisticated, thus, making it hard to distinguish between illicit and licit activity, said Dr Ian Ralby, an expert in maritime security, private security, international law and transnational crime.
Oil thefts add to the woes of the nations' reeling from price drop. Dr Ralby's recent study 'Downstream oil theft: Global modalities, trends, and remedies' is a major research work on illicit downstream hydrocarbons activity. The report provides insight into international trends and 'broader picture of the illicit market that affect everybody worldwide'.
Ralby noted hydrocarbons crime, in all its forms, has become a significant threat to global stability and security.
"The UAE is at lower risk than most states in the world. But even stable states can be unaware of their involvement. Using fraud, a lot of networks are able to transship stolen fuel and launder them to legitimate markets, sometimes without the broader knowledge of the place where they are doing it. So, it is something to be aware of as ports here can be facilitating, unknown, the movement of illicit stolen fuel. The existence of hydrocarbon here makes it an attractive place to make the stolen fuel disappear into legitimate market. So that is something to look out for," Ralby, who is also chief executive officer of IR Consilium, said.
According to him, smuggling takes different forms at different places and has a 'snowball effect'. "Smuggling is rampant at any place where there is price difference at the borders because everyone is looking for a discount on fuel. It's easy as any individual can fill up in one state legally and sell illegally on the other side. It can start at a low-level and extend into very high-impact criminal activity over time with involvement from a wide-range of actors. Some of it is just cross-border activity with jerry cans and donkeys or sophisticated operations involving tanker trucks and modified vessels in a maritime space to smuggle fuel from one country to another. Even off shore facilities can be used to actually launder stolen fuel to be brought back into legitimate market."
Ralby, a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council's Global Energy Center, said fuel theft is not a difficult criminal enterprise to get involved with. "Fuel is so prevalent in all our lives that it's hard to distinguish between illicit and licit activity. So, it's very easy to make stolen fuel disappear into legitimate market."
On the drain on country's revenue, he said the effect on governments can be extreme. The EU, for example, in 2012 lost about ?4 billion in tax revenue." Ralby said there needs to be more research done worldwide as fuel is getting stolen everywhere in some way. "Globally, we can't afford to turn a blind eye to this issue."
He said governments must focus on reforms be it in security, energy ministry, regulatory authorities and like. "Also, cooperation is needed between countries and internally with governmental agencies to see problems don't get unnoticed. Counter measures are needed. There are tools available from tracking device to molecular marking, monitors on pipeline to other techniques to address the problems," he added. - firstname.lastname@example.org
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