In an opinion piece for Svenska Dagbladet, Swedish Gas Trade Association Managing Director Robert Dimmlich revealed Monday that each year, across the country, around 50,000 Swedes fill up and drive away without paying –a petty crime which costs fuel retailers over 44 million krona ($5.23 million US) each year.
In a trade where gasoline traders' profit margin on fuel amounts to an average of 1 percent, or 2 cents US per liter, "this is a very significant amount." But even more significant is the lack of police interest in the crime. According to Dimmlich, a correction to the criminal code made in 2013, passed with little public debate and almost no media coverage, "almost obliges" police to close their eyes on petty crimes where the punishment amounts to less than three months' prison time. As a result, even despite ample evidence, over 95 percent of gas theft cases are simply closed.
Dimmlich notes that the industry will likely respond by urging payment in advance. However, in his view, "the police's inability to act and unwillingness to investigate crime is a frightening development."
And the crime isn't limited to small time theft, either. A series of criminal gangs across the country now makes such good profits from the theft of diesel fuel that they specialize in it. With 9,300 cases of diesel fuel theft reported last year, Swedish police estimate the theft of about 100 million krona ($11.88 million) worth of fuel from trucks, construction vehicles and tractors. As Radio Sweden explains, thieves attach up to six ton fuel tanks to their vehicles, and with high capacity pumps and hoses, can steal several hundred liters of fuel in a matter of a fuel minutes. This spring, fueling stations have responded to the epidemic by mixing additives into the fuel, unique to each purchaser, which police hope will help to determine the origin and destination of the stolen fuel, and thus help lead to at least some of the criminals' capture.