Peru lawmaker: More than 1,000 police officers involved in nationwide gasoline resale scam

More than 1,000 police officers, including high-ranking generals and colonels, are allegedly involved in a nationwide gasoline resale scam, reported Édgar Núñez, the President of Congress’ Defense and Internal Order Commission.

“This goes way beyond what I imagined,” said Núñez in comments to daily Peru21.

“Only 15 percent of the (state-provided) gasoline is really pumped into police cars. Five percent goes to privately-owned cars, to cronies, friends, wives and stepchildren and 80 percent is converted to cash,”  Núñez said. “That’s what they share out. We’re talking about 120 million soles ($37 million) annually if we take into account that the government assigns 150 million soles ($47 million) to the National Police for gasoline.”

“This is very serious,” added Núñez . “This is a spider’s web that involves at least 1,000 officers nationwide.”

According to Núñez, who this week inspected three gas stations involved in the scam, the illegal resale of gasoline has been going on for years and involves high-ranking officials.

“Let’s put an end to this corruption,” said Núñez from a gas station located in Lima’s Surquillo district on Tuesday. “The government gives our glorious police gasoline so that it may patrol the streets, not so that some high-ranking rascals, including generals and colonels, can pocket the money.”

During Núñez’s visit to El Callao’s Emergency Squadron, a police officer, who requested that his name be withheld, told Núñez that electronic devices were used to increase the mileage on patrol cars, to trick the inspector into believing that the vehicles had been taken out for daily patrols.

Núñez, who claims he has received death threats, also said that the police’s marine rescue unit has been collecting gasoline for 24 jet skis, although 14 have been out of order for about one year.

And, Núñez revealed that police motorcycles are only being filled with one gallon of gas per day, though the government pays for one gallon and a half.

Peru President Alan Garcia, whose administration was recently shaken to its core by an oil kickback scandal, did not deny the probable existence of the gasoline scam, and called for further investigation.

“It’s possible that it has happened, or perhaps it’s not true,” said Garcia, “but what I need is an investigation.”

“As for gasoline, there has been abuse,” Garcia added. “It’s true and it started before Valentín Paniagua and Alejandro Toledo’s governments, to avoid increasing salaries and social benefits… In any case, it was a bad budgetary practice.”

On Wednesday, as Núñez’s revelations continued to make headlines, Congress’ Audit Commission announced that it would call in Minister of Interior Remigio Hernani and Peru National Police Director Mauro Remicio for questioning. Banking secrecy is to be lifted to allow for thorough investigation of all suspected officers.

Peru’s Armed Forces are also the target of an investigation for a similar gasoline scam. In December, now retired Gen. Edwin Donayre Gotzch – Peru’s former army chief – was the subject of an investigation for ordering excessive quantities of gasoline at his earlier posts in Arequipa and Ayacucho. Some 46 army officers have been called as witnesses.

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