He made a cool Rs 36 lakh by digging a tunnel and drawing 80,000 litres of petrol — enough to fill fuel tanks of 2,857 Maruti 800 cars — from an Indian Oil Corporation pipeline.
Bir Singh (50), who ran into losses after his small time business of running oil tankers failed, allegedly used the premises of an unused factory in Mundka, west Delhi, for oil pilfering.
The 147-km-long pipeline transports petroleum products from Mathura refinery in Uttar Pradesh to Bijwasan in Delhi.
Police said Singh dug a kilometre-long tunnel (3 feet diameter), attached a valve and clamp to the pipeline and used a pipe to draw petrol.
He reportedly filled the petrol in a tanker and sold it in the black market.
A security concern
“The man who drilled into the pipeline could have died due to the pressure of the liquid,” said RS Chauhan, chief technical services manager, IOC. Chauhan said a single spark near it could have burst the entire pipeline and killed many people.
Detecting the theft
Police said the technical team of IOC detected a dip in the pipeline's pressure in the first week of September.
The accused had drawn 80,000 litres of oil from the pipeline in one go. “We suspected there was a leakage and pressed teams into action,” said Chauhan.
The IOC engaged scientists from Bhabha Atomic Research Centre to detect the pilferage through sensors. The instrument, which has radioactive elements, is passed through the pipeline and starts blinking whenever it finds a metal hole.
The scientists zeroed in on Mundka Industrial Area in west Delhi but could not find the exact location of pilferage.
“Our vigilance team also conducted an inquiry and then we made a police complaint,” said Chauhan.
Police combed the entire area. “We detected the road outside a factory was covered with mud. When we removed the loose soil, we discovered a kilometre-long tunnel,” said Sharad Aggarwal, deputy commissioner of police (west). “We found a clamp and a valve attached to the IOC pipeline.”
Police said Singh had dug the tunnel with the help of a crane.
Singh appeared to have had a fair idea of the area.
“He chose this location because it was a deserted area. He had worked in this area for some time and also ran a business of oil tankers,” said the officer. The IOC officials said as soon as the pilferage was detected, they stopped supply of the pipeline.
Police said Singh has taken a few names and details were being verified. A case was registered and the accused lodged in Tihar Jail.