Thieves raiding chippies and takeaways for cooking oil in £15m-a-year scam

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Thieves are nicking cooking oil from takeaways and chippies to sell on as bio-diesel in a £15million-a-year scam.

The crooks are cashing in on sky-high fuel prices – and some of the oil is also being sold on the black market to bars and restaurants struggling to cope with a 10% global price rise for vegetable oil.

Vincent Igoe, of Olleco which collects used cooking oil and recycles it into bio-diesel, said: “Across the industry, we’re seeing between 25 and 30million litres a year being stolen.

“The rising cost of fuel has seen people produce illegal bio-fuel so they don’t have to pay duty on it.

“But to convert the oil into bio-fuel criminals are mixing it with methanol which is highly flammable and highly dangerous.”

Police in Derbyshire received 15 reports of thefts in two months – and more than 40 oil thieves have been arrested across the UK since October.

A spokesman for the force said: “The oil has been taken from outside premises such as pubs and restaurants where they have been left ready for collection by genuine companies. We’ve also seen a few reports of offenders going to the premises and claiming to work for an oil collection company.”

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The price of restaurant grease has risen more than tenfold over the past 10 years, driven by soaring demand for homemade bio-diesel and high petrol prices. Now criminals are making a ­living charging 50p a litre for the stuff.

Food businesses are forbidden from pouring used oil down the drain and have to arrange for it to be taken away by a waste carrier – but thieves are getting there first. One loaded van was recently pulled over by officers in Ringwood, Hants.

Chippie owner Michael Page, from Norfolk, who gets through 10 20-kilo containers a week and earns £5 for each one returned, said: “I’m having to sell a lot of chips to recoup these losses.”

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