A five-man group suspected of stealing thousands of liters of fuel from Paris service stations have been arrested by French Police.

Five men were arrested in late-March by French police following allegations that they had stolen nearly 100,000 liters of fuel from gas stations in Paris.

They used sophisticated tactics for this campaign—including utilizing a remote device from the dark web—and are believed to have operated for a number of months from 2017 to 2018.

Investigating agents from Versailles reported that 37 gas stations all over Paris experienced great losses during this time period.

The Strategy Used to Steal Fuel in Paris

The organized crime group responsible for the fuel theft appears to have operated during the night when gas stations were closed.

Rather than siphoning the fuel or breaking into its reserve, they used a remote device to override the fuel station’s security.

The remote control was acquired from the dark web by one of the group’s members.

It not only enabled them to change the station’s settings to manual from automatic, but also tampered with the accounting system so that any gas obtained from the reservoir during the night would not be charged.

The suspects took advantage of the fact that many gas station staff had neglected to change the fuel pumps’ pin from the default 0000.

An investigator explained that the suspects would show up at the gas station in groups of two or three, in separate cars and a few minutes apart.

The first car would unlock the fuel pump using the remote device and the second vehicle, equipped with a large tank ranging in volume from 2,000 to 3,000 liters, would take its fill.

The remote control was acquired from the dark web by one of the group’s members.

Much of the fuel was successfully sold to customers at a price that was 30 percent less than what they would normally pay at a service station.

The discounted fuel was advertised on social media with a location and time communicated for customers to claim their orders.

Many were attracted by the discounted price or what they referred to as a “wild sale,” thereby enabling the thieves to sell on significant amounts of gas each day.

France’s Already High Fuel Prices a Potential Motivation

The members of the group appear to have benefitted from their sales. However, amidst France’s already rising fuel prices, it was likely the criminals had little trouble passing on the bounty at their reduced rate.

France already has some of the highest fuel prices in Europe. This has resulted in significant retaliation from the people as shown by the recent “gilets jaunes” or “yellow vests”  movement.

The protestors set up demonstrations on the streets against President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to increase diesel prices.

At the time, the government claimed that the surplus money from the taxes would be used to put up eco-friendly projects in attempts to mitigate climate change.

At the start of the movement, people mostly protested against the overly increased tax on fuel prices, with over 250,000 people blocking major roads while dressed in yellow reflector jackets.

Protestors demanded that taxes be reduced or frozen.

Thereafter, they began to complain about the increased cost of living due to the rise in cost of transporting basic commodities.

France already has some of the highest fuel prices in Europe.

Measures Taken to Combat the Theft

Managers and operators have had to invest in increased security to keep their gas stations from being robbed.

Many have upgraded their surveillance systems with the installation of equipment such as CCTV for 24-hour surveillance of the area, together with the recruitment of extra security personnel.

Other areas have preferred to use fuel trucks and trains to deliver the product wherever it is needed thereby avoiding vulnerable pipelines.

This measure has been considered effective in decreasing fuel lost in pipelines even though there have been delays in the delivery of the product.

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