Increased Activity of Fuel Smugglers from Lebanon to Syria

Tuesday, 30 April, 2019 - 14:45 -

Increased Activity of Fuel Smugglers from Lebanon to Syria

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A general view shows Al-Masnaa border crossing between Lebanon and Syria January 5, 2015. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
Beirut - Sanaa Al-Jack
Syria’s fuel crisis has opened the door for Lebanese exports of this vital commodity, either legally or through smuggling from uncontrolled crossings.

While some Syrian traders import gasoline from Lebanon at a rate of one million liters per day to cover a quarter of the daily consumption, about 100,000 liters are smuggled daily, passing through Al-Masnaa border crossing, without any supervision or control, according to the head of gas stations owners’ syndicate, Sami Braks.

In June last year, then-Minister of State for Anti-Corruption Affairs Nicolas Tueni announced that his ministry “had been informed by reliable sources of the smuggling of quantities of gasoline from Syria into Lebanon, which amounted to around one million liters a day.”

Smuggling across the Syrian-Lebanese border is relatively easy, as some houses and properties are located on Syrian and Lebanese territories at the same time.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a security officer told Asharq Al-Awsat that more than 50 Syrian tankers used for the transport of fuel were seen in the Lebanese village of Bhamdoun, heading towards Syria through Al-Masnaa crossing. He noted that those were operating under contracts between Lebanese companies and the Syrian government.

“Illegal smuggling is another matter,” the officer said.

He noted that the Lebanese laws did not prevent the export of fuel or other commodities.

“The customs administration has nothing to do with any Lebanese goods that pass to Syria, as long that they do not include prohibited merchandise, such as drugs,” he stated.

“But if the commodities were seized at illegal crossings, the security and military forces should arrest the smugglers,” he explained.

A Syrian citizen, who returned from Aleppo to Beirut a few days ago, told Asharq Al-Awsat that small cars and trucks passed daily between Syria and Lebanon, with hidden tanks used for fuel smuggling.

He added that obtaining “legal” fuel sometimes required waiting three to four days at petrol stations, where public transport drivers receive 20 liters of fuel and the owners of private vehicles receive only 10 liters.

“Smugglers usually enjoy the protection of powerful figures,” the citizen said, adding that Syrian “taxi drivers go to Lebanon more than once a day, even if they had one passenger, only to fill their tanks with gasoline so they can earn their living.”