A bold gang set up a makeshift refinery in the grounds of Boris Johnson’s ministerial Chevening estate in order to steal hydrocarbon fuel from a network of underground pipes. Petrol, diesel and aviation fuel was also stolen from pipelines across Essex, Hampshire, Northamptonshire, and Cheshire over a 17-month period.
When police raided the site a few years ago, they found metal shipping containers, 1,000-litre empty plastic containers and a hose running from a fuel pipeline into a truck trailer.
The Prosecutor told Maidstone Crown Court that Roger Gull tapped the pipelines in several locations and that he was arranging storage and distribution of the stolen fuel. Ryan Gull, his son, is accused of using his position as director of family businesses to launder money from the sales. Millions of liters of fuel were stolen from various illegal taps between June 2013 and November 2014. The overall damage, including the cost of repair and clean-up, was reported as several million USD. Petroleum officers searching for a potential breach of the pipeline in August of 2014 found an illegal tap and a hose running along the perimeter of the field for 250 metres on a section at Oveney Green Farm.
The thieves hot tapped the high-pressure, multi-product pipelines, which pump 350,000 liters of fuel per hour and attached hydraulic hoses, fitted with pressure gauges and valves. Initially the hoses ran to buckets buried beneath roadsides and fields that the thieves emptied into large plastic containers. It is claimed the operation later became more sophisticated. Vans with reinforced suspension were used to carry off the stolen fuel.
The trial is expected to last up to five weeks.