Officers search the van used by the two men to transport the fuel. / sur

Father and son who stole fuel and almost brought Malaga Airport to a halt handed reduced jail sentences

The British pair have also been ordered pay 160,000 euros in compensation instead of the four million euros originally requested by prosecutors

IVÁN GELIBTER Malaga

A British father and son who were found guilty of stealing fuel from a pipeline to Malaga Airport in 2011 have been sentenced to one year and three months in prison each and ordered to pay compensation 160,000 euros. Due to their actions, operations at the airport almost came to a complete halt.

The lighter penalties have been awarded by the Supreme Court after they appealed against the three-year sentences and larger fines initially handed down by the Malaga provincial court.

The events took place in 2011, when the pair rented a property in the Paraje Pelliza area of Malaga, knowing that the Arahal-Malaga pipeline ran below the grounds. They used a prefabricated hut to hide what they were doing and drilled down until they reached the pipeline. They then perforated it, attached some valves they had acquired previously and fitted a hose and a tap, in other words they made an illegal connection to the pipe so they could remove the fuel from it.

For a period at the end of September and in early October that year, they continually removed fuel which they would then transport in a van and sell to third parties. However, the pressure inside the pipeline was then increased and fuel spilled out into the subsoil at their rented property.

When the control centre detected a drop in pressure in the pipe that supplied the airport, Compañía Logística de Hidrocarburos (CLH), which manages the infrastructure, reported a suspected theft to the Guardia Civil. Their investigation led them to the father and son, who were arrested, while other members of the family were cleared of suspicion in relation to the crime.

Not an environmental offence, Supreme Court finds

Initially the private prosecutor asked for a 20-year prison sentence for the father and a financial penalty of four million euros. The Malaga provincial court handed down a sentence of three years for each man, a number of fines and ordered them to pay around one million euros in compensation.

Later, however, the Supreme Court partly upheld an appeal from their defence lawyer Manuel Huertas and reduced the prison term from three years to one year and three months, which meant the men would not actually have to go to jail.

The Supreme Court judge said this had been a case of theft but was not considered an environmental offence.

It was also agreed that the father and son were to pay 160,000 euros in compensation instead of the much higher amounts decreed previously.