The Southern District Prosecutor's Office has filed a suspicion of submitting false information against major fuel retailer Olerex and its board member and co-owner Andres Linnas, daily Eesti Päevaleht (EPL) wrote Friday.
Southern District Prosecutor Gerd Raudsepp told the paper (link in Estonian) that the company received the suspicion of submitting false information on Thursday.
"According to the suspicion, Andres Linnas ordered employees of AS Olerex to submit false information in the interests of the company to the Environmental Board regarding the fuel in the tanker to arrive in Estonia on December 30, 2022," Raudsepp said.
"Grounds for suspicion are documents submitted to the Environmental Board by AS Olerex employees on January 13, 2023 claiming that the tanker had brought 9,000 tons of renewable raw materials-based diesel fuel into Estonia," he continued. "In reality, the tanker was carrying fossil-derived diesel fuel."
Fuel companies had expressed concern as early as in 2022 already that Olerex was not fulfilling bio-additive fuel requirements. This June, the Environmental Board announced that it was investigating together with officials from the Central Criminal Police in criminal proceedings whether Olerex had submitted false information to the Estonian Tax and Customs Board (MTA) to skirt compliance with biofuel requirements.
Olerex has previously said that this investigation could constitute an information operation directed against them as Estonia's fuel market leader.
Under the Liquid Fuel Act, fuel retailers must ensure that at least 7.5 percent of fuel sold to consumers by the end of a calendar year is renewable energy-based, i.e. biofuel.
Last summer, the Environmental Board discovered that Olerex was likely unable to successfully fulfill this requirement within the calendar year; the agency informed the company about this repeatedly. Nevertheless, as of December 20 last year, Olerex's compliance with biofuel requirements only stood at just under 1 percent.
On December 30 last year, a tanker arrived in Estonia carrying a cargo of Olerex fuel from which the MTA took a sample. The sample identified the fuel in question to be regular winter diesel fuel. Two weeks later, Olerex submitted data to the MTA indicating that the tanker had delivered hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO), a renewable raw materials-based biofuel that would have guaranteed Olerex's fulfillment of biofuel requirements at a rate of 7.51 percent.
This June, the Central Criminal Police launched a criminal investigation to determine whether Olerex has submitted false information to the MTA in order to skirt compliance with biofuel requirements.
A bill submitted by the Ministry of Climate for a round of approval at the end of June would reduce the fuel biocomponent requirement verification period from one year to half a year, as well as switch the fine rate to a unit-based system.
According to the ministry's proposal, the fine would be set at €125 per gigajoule (GJ) unfulfilled as of the end of a half-year period. In the case of an infringement, the Environmental Board would have the right to suspend the fuel seller's activity license.
Editor: Aili Vahtla