Finance minister Johan Van Overtveldt has promised to take legal action against petrol stations who are openly selling heating oil to owners of diesel cars as the price of legal diesel has increased. Fuel oil or mazout is a form of diesel known as red diesel, which may be used for agricultural vehicles such as tractors, for which it is sold at a lower tax rate. The name red diesel comes from a dye added to the fuel to make it easier to check. It can also be sold to truck drivers who use it to power the refrigeration units of their vehicles.
But as diesel prices rise – one of the initial triggers for the actions of protestors known as the Yellow Vests – in some parts of the country, including Brussels, stations are selling the red diesel illegally to car owners.
“W are not responsible for the way that customers use it,” one station manager told Bruzz. “It’s illegal, everyone knows that, but the high diesel prices mean that people are prepared to take more risks.”
But high prices or not, Van Overtveldt (photo) intends to take action. “We will act in the hours to come,” he told the VRT. “That could be the sealing off of pumps, criminal complaints, fines or a combination of all three.”
Already this year, even before the latest diesel price increases, customs checks have uncovered 763 cases of fraud with red diesel. In 2017 there were almost twice as many drivers caught as in 2016 – 1,206 compared to 660. But 2014 was the record year so far: 101,939 checks led to charges in 1,545 cases.
Drivers caught using red diesel illegally are subject to fines of between €500 and €1,250.