The Malta Independent 19 September 2019, Thursday

Electricity theft fines increased from 10% to 200% of the amount stolen

Malta Independent Sunday, 7 September 2014, 12:00 Last update: about 6 years ago

The government is clamping down on electricity theft with a set of new and more stringent fines that will see electricity thieves repaying not only the estimated amount of electricity stolen but now an additional 200 per cent fine on top.

The harsher fines come after the widespread smart meter racket, which the government claims cost the taxpayer up to €30 million in a single year after some 1,000 meters were found to have been tampered with.

A legal notice published this week has increased the penalty for tampering with Enemalta smart meters and other types of electricity theft, with first-time offenders facing a 200 per cent surcharge on the amount estimated to have been stolen. On top of that, electricity thieves will also have to repay the original amount estimated to have been stolen. The previous charge amounted to 10 per cent.

The government will be coming down even harder on repeat offenders, who will be slapped with a 400 per cent surcharge on the amount stolen. Consumers who still fail to learn their lesson will have the 200 per cent surcharge multiplied by the number of repeat offences.

This means that a consumer caught stealing electricity on three separate occasions will face a penalty fee of 600 per cent of the amount stolen to make good for any potential damages suffered by Enemalta.

Enemalta has the right to refuse to restore the electricity supply before all penalty fees have been paid.

The government is adopting a stick and carrot approach with Enemalta consumers, as it has also announced a partial amnesty on interest payments on outstanding bills. Consumers can reduce their interest payments by up to 75 per cent if they seek to settle their arrears by the end of October.

In other words, those settling their outstanding bill by the end of next month will receive a 75 per cent amnesty on the interest owed to Enemalta.

The interest owed will be reduced by half if the arrears are settled by the end of November and by 25 per cent if they are settled by the end of the year.

When the smart meter tampering scandal was first uncovered, the government offered an amnesty to the 1,000 consumers suspected of having a meter that had been tampered with if they voluntarily came forward and admitted to the theft of electricity.

The deadline for the amnesty was back in April, and some 400 wayward consumers, out of an estimated 1,000, came forward. The government had warned that it would pursue consumers with criminal and civil action if they failed to come forward.

Some 60 per cent of the applicants for the amnesty were business consumers, and there was one case where an applicant was found to have five smart meters that had been tampered with. Enemalta is expected to recover €10 million in lost revenue, as a result of consumers being made to pay for the stolen electricity and also incurring a fine.

The Malta Independent on Sunday asked an Energy Ministry spokesman how many consumers have been arraigned to date, but no reply was forthcoming.

Last month, the state broadcaster TVM reported that a group of 17 consumers was due to appear in court, but nothing has been heard since. Several consumers have already had criminal charges against them dropped by Enemalta in exchange for their testimony against the Enemalta employees who they bribed.

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