The Crime Branch on Friday claimed to have arrested a suspect who deployed software and an electronic chip to help fuel stations fleece customers.
The accused -- Pramod Prajapati – tweaked fuel vending systems at several petrol pumps, in what was a service he offered to the fuel resellers who are usually franchisee owners of major oil marketing companies like Bharat Petroleum and Indian Oil Corporation.
Shailendra Singh Chouhan, an additional superintendent of police rank official, who heads the Crime Branch, said: "After a chip is attached and software installed, fuel dispensing can be remote-controlled from a distance to deliver less amount of fuel than what is displayed to the customer".
Prajapati, 27, who hails from Anuppur, was caught on suspicion and, police claim, confessed during interrogation. "The software decides how much per cent of petrol can be stolen.
For example, you pay for 10 litres, and the machine shows that it has dispensed 10 litres, but a person from a nearby chamber or manager's room can ensure that you get only 5 or 7 litres of fuel through this manipulation", said a crime branch officer.
Prajapati told police that most people who use the system set it for 5% pilfering on each customer so that it is not easily detected. The suspect claimed he learnt the technique at a private firm where he worked to repair and service fuel pumps.
He then met one Mukesh, a resident of Indore, who had access to the software. Prajapati, police said, bought the software from Mukesh for around Rs 1 lakh. Mukesh, who is yet to be apprehended, would sell the software for Rs 5-10 lakh to others, Prajapati told police.
Police claim the suspect has installed the hack at several stations across the state, charging somewhere around Rs 10,000-Rs 50,000 for each installation. After preliminary interrogation, police raided Shanti Pratik Filling Station at Akodia in Shajapur district and seized the equipment.
The staff at the station was quizzed, and a hunt was underway for Mukesh too. Names of other petrol pumps that bought the system will be compiled and the oil manufacturing companies will be alerted, police said.