BarmerPolice arrested eight people on Friday for allegedly stealing about 5 crore litres of crude oil from Cairn India’s oilfield in Barmer over the last several years.Cairn India produces about 1.75 lakh barrels of oil per day from its Barmer oilfield, which is India’s largest onshore block. The company said it had filed a case and was cooperating with the police.The eight arrested were mainly transporters and some staff of Cairn contractor companies. The role of some top officials of the oil and gas giant was being investigated, police said, adding that more arrests are likely soon.Modus OperandiAccording to police, the tanker operators were authorised for transporting water, but used to carry oil in two of the five compartments inside the nearly 40,000-litre tanker. The rest would be filled with water.The accused Sata Ram and Dharma Ram were selling the crude to Gautam Singh Rajpurohit and Bhoor Singh Rajpurohit, both residents of Barmer, at a factory located about 12 km from the city.Gautam Singh paid Rs 7.50 per litre to the tanker owner and later sold the crude for Rs 25 per litre, police said. The tanker owner kept Rs 4 for himself and distributed the rest Rs 3.50 among the staff posted at production site, the surveyor, helpers and others.Barmer superintendent of police Gagandeep Singla said the tankers belonged to transport companies Narendra Road lines Ltd (NRL), a Gujarat-based firm, and Shree Mohangarh Construction Company (SMCC), a local entity.At least 44 tankers were used for transportation of which 39 were used for crude theft, police said, adding that they have seized 33 tankers, 11 of NRL and 22 of SMCC, while five have been kept under vigilance.Based on the statement of the accused, police said that theft of 15000-20,000 litres of crude oil worth Rs 3 lakh was taking place daily. With more arrests likely, the figures are likely to go up, police said.Raids on Underground StoragesPolice recovered around 3,500 litres crude from the factory. On checking with Cairn, the company confirmed that it was crude and it matched with the Cairn satellite field crude oil, Singla said.Later, police also traced and raided another factory in Barmer Gadan and found eight underground storage tankers and recovered 43,000 litres of crude.Police said the theft was done in connivance with field-level staff and this nexus had been running since past six years. The security personnel at oil production sites were also questioned.So far, three FIRs have been registered in which hundred people have been named as accused. Of these, 25 had been detained for questioning on Friday, and police arrested eight of them.According to the police, the stolen crude was being supplied to many states and investigation is on to trace the complete ring.Barmer collector Shivprasad Nakate told HT they have formed a committee to probe the matter from some different angles, including the illegalities. Officials from the state petroleum department have also reached Barmer to probe the matter.A Cairn India official said apart from the Rs 10 crore loss to the company, the state exchequer had lost around Rs 50 crore.“As a common practice, Union and state governments get profit from petroleum sale, royalty and other taxes that are higher than that of the operating company. In case of Barmer, the calculation indicates that against a sale of crude of Rs 100, Cairn’s profit is Rs 18 while the union government and the state in total get Rs 82,” he said on condition of anonymity.