Monday, September 15, 2008

Fry driving

No, this isn't a story about driving a french fry. It's about the unleashing of human ingenuity when faced with taxes. The story dates from 2002:
A special police unit nicknamed the "frying squad" has been formed in a market town where hundreds of drivers are believed to be running their diesel cars on cooking oil.

Sniffing out unusually fragrant exhaust fumes, highway patrols have already collared several dozen offenders, who save more than 40p a litre by diverting oil from the kitchen cupboard to under the bonnet.
"It's a serious offence," said Bill O'Leary, spokesman for customs and excise, which levies tax on motor oil but not on the version used in saucepans. "By law, all cars on public roads must pay a tax on the fuel they use. Evasion carries a maximum seven-year jail term."
A closely related story here:
When, in September, just up the coast from Swansea, in Burry Port, near Llanelli, six more drivers were discovered apparently running their cars on cooking oil, the news quickly spread. "It was a media feeding frenzy," says Dai Davies of Dyfed and Powys police, whose officers were involved in the spot checks. "Everyone came down here, from the local BBC news to the New York Times." Within a couple of days, the story was in circulation of a crack team of law-enforcement officers swooping on south Wales motorists, of widespread tax fraud, of a hunt for the Mr Big of the cooking-oil scam. One report in a Canadian paper talked of round-the-clock stakeouts in the aisles of Asda that netted a couple buying 100 litres of oil at a time. A witty subeditor coined a nickname for the operation that immediately stuck: the Frying Squad.

"There wasn't a team as such," says Davies. "It was a multi-agency approach...."


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