Petrol credit card scam linked to Tamil rebels

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UK motorists have become the target of a credit card scam that allegedly funds Tamil rebel groups in Sri Lanka.

In the scam, customers' card details are obtained when the card is used to pay at petrol stations. Money is then transferred from accounts to other accounts around the world.

Detective Inspector Paul Welton, whose Humberside region is one of those believed to have been caught up in the fraud, said that sophisticated criminal networks were involved.

"Quite clearly this was well-organised and it was done on an international basis," he said.

The Sri Lankan government believes that insurgent groups are coercing innocent members of the expatriate community in the UK to "skim" cards for them.

"They extract the pin and details from the cards and within minutes this information is sent to LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) agents who operate in remote parts of the world, as far away as Thailand and Indonesia," said Maxwell Keegel from the Sri Lankan High Commission.

Around 200 of the UK's 9,500 petrol stations are under suspicion with complaints made in Edinburgh, Norwich, Bury St Edmunds, Peterborough, Nottingham, Leeds, Bristol and Hull.

As most outlets are independently owned and operated, coordinated action to prevent the crime has been difficult to organise.

"We are working with the independent retailers but it is difficult to tell them what to do," admitted Nick Vandervell of the UK Petroleum Industry Association.

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