Italian gang 'stole jet fuel from NATO pipeline to sell to motorists'

A gang stole large quantities of jet fuel from NATO’s European pipeline and sold it to unsuspecting motorists in Italy, German press agency DPA reports. The theft was discovered in 2019, but details are only now coming to light. 

A NATO spokesperson confirmed to DPA on Tuesday that criminals tapped one of the pipes in a field close to the Belgian-French border. About 800,000 litres of kerosene was stolen and then sold to drivers via petrol stations. 

The 5,300 km Central European Pipeline System (CEPS) is an important part of the NATO defence system, stretching across Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. It connects air force bases with storage facilities and pumping stations.

Dozens under investigation

To reduce operating costs, the pipeline is also used to transport and store kerosene for non-military clients, and supplies civilian airports in Brussels, Frankfurt, Luxembourg, Amsterdam and Zurich.

According to the Italian financial crime agency, an organisation led by three entrepreneurs was responsible for exporting the fuel. Before it was sold to drivers, it was stored in an illegal warehouse where it was mixed with diesel and oil.

Several dozen middlemen were traced during the investigation and assets amounting to several million euros were seized under anti-mafia regulations. In total, Italian police are investigating more than 40 suspects.

Five people arrested in Belgium in connection with the case have since been found guilty. Other legal proceedings are ongoing.


Illustration picture of sustainable aviation fuel at Brussels airport, January 2023, delivered via NATO's CEPS pipeline © BELGA PHOTO JAMES ARTHUR GEKIERE

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