Higher penalties sought for illegal diesel sales
CHOW CHUNG-YAN and ALEX LO
Fire chiefs have launched a crackdown on illegal sales of diesel and hope to have penalties for offenders raised.
This week, the Fire Services Department issued its first warnings to stores suspected of selling illegal untaxed diesel after lawyers said it could increase its powers.
'In the past, we could not take action against the storage of dangerous goods if it was below the exempt quantity, which is 2,500 litres for diesel,' said the chief fire officer for fire protection, Kwok Jing-keung.
'Having consulted legal experts, now we can issue warnings under the Fire Hazard Ordinance to those stores if we find the presence of illegal fuel and dispensing equipment.
'We will continue our actions and we are going to make their life hard.' Store owners have to remove all stored fuel and equipment within 72 hours of receiving the warning.
An owner faces a maximum $25,000 fine and an additional $2,500 fine for every day he fails to comply.
Mr Kwok said the department was also considering increasing the maximum penalty for storing dangerous goods exceeding the exempted quantity.
'The Dangerous Goods Ordinance is below the international standard and we will submit an amendment bill to Legco before the end of this year,' Mr Kwok said.
The maximum penalty now is $25,000 and six months in jail.
Taxi Associations Federation spokesman Ng Kwok-hung estimated one in 10 drivers used illegal diesel which is one-third of the regular price.
'We discourage drivers from using untaxed diesel as a matter of policy because it is illegal and it is bad for car engines,' he said.
'But many don't care because they rent their taxis and have to pay for the gas during their shifts.' Customs officers seized 3.09 million litres with a market value of $10.2 million in 252 cases last year.