One to five years in prison for stealing electricity

NEWS

One to five years in prison for stealing electricity

Theft is theft, but so far the practice of stealing electricity was viewed, legally, with lightness and standards were lost in the middle of a law that would not allow “effective criminalization” of the offense. Now this may change. The bill establishing the legal regime for combating fraud and theft of electricity has been drafted and submitted to Parliament.

Current law qualifies the theft of electricity in a way that does not allow an “effective criminalization,” said the Minister of Tourism, Industry and Energy, Humberto Brito, at the inauguration of the electrical substation of Monte da Vaca, on the outskirts of Cidade da Praia, in the past May 10th.

Thus, faced with a problem that has long drags, causing huge losses to Electra, to the country and to abiding citizens, a new law was drafted, which considers imprisonment and fines, as well as the amendment of the Penal Code relating to criminal punishment.The proposal, already submitted to the National Assembly, also comprises in its summary, “regulatory measures to control the electricity supply in housing, companies and other physical facilities.”

According to data from the Directorate-General for Energy, energy theft and fraud in the country “have increased persistently” and new legislation is a priority to improve the quality of service delivery.

With the measures included in this draft, it is expected to reduce the “blackouts”, since a significant number of these occurrences are associated with “improper or unauthorized interventions in the distribution network,” as read in the Explanatory Memorandum introducing the law.

Fighting illegal consumption is not new. In October a decree-law (n. ª 30/2008) was created, but this did not achieve the desired result, and that’s why is “urgent to think about other, more effective and efficient ways.”

“The current criminal frame is weak if we make a proportional comparison to the social and economic impact of the continued practice of fraudulent act” it reads. “Accordingly, it is proposed to change this penal provision aggravating its punishment, which will be a discouraging and deterrent measure, giving exemplary punishment to the deviant behavior.”

What’s in the new law

The new law will essentially define certain behaviors as crimes, leaving other less serious acts classified as offenses. Among these strategies we find examples like “establish connections to the public distribution network “, sell or transfer the energy to third parties or use energy unregistered in the energy meters.

he inspection can be done by the concessionary or sub-licensed utility or credited and licensed entities for the purpose. If irregularities are found, an infraction report shall be issued, which will be sent to the Public Prosecutor’s Office or to the Directorate-General for Energy.

Theft punishable with imprisonment

Stealing energy entitles jail. Whether for personal use or third party consumer, whoever does illegal connections and/or using energy unregistered in energy meters is punished with imprisonment from 1 to 5 years. Who, in turn, consume energy obtained in this way is punished with 1 to 3 years.

In crime section some articles of the Criminal Code will also be modified, in particular the article regarding energy fraud (215º). From now on, who, ” in order to obtain unlawful pecuniary advantage for themselves or third party, vitiate the registration or adulterate the information given on instruments or apparatus for measuring and values relating to the supply of electricity, water, telephone or any other element, energy or fluids, shall be punished with imprisonment up to 3 years or a fine up to 500 days “.Staff of the concessionary utilities and public officials will have more severe penalties.

Fine or company dissolution

To legal persons or equivalent who commit the crime of theft of electricity a fine or dissolution will be applied. In case of a fine, the penalty is fixed in days, with a minimum of 100 and a maximum of 900. To each day corresponds an amount that ranges from 300$00 and 80,000$00.
“The dissolution penalty is applied when the founders of the legal person or company have had the intention of, through it, steal” energy, or when the repeated practice of such crimes shows that the company/entity is being used to that effect.

The energy theft and the crime of fraud and damage are public crimes and anyone may report them. Moreover, the trial of these crimes, “takes the course of a shortened process”.

Penalties not exceeding two years of imprisonment may be suspended if certain commitments are made, such as “immediately conclude a contract for the supply of energy”.

Offenses can reach 2,000$00

Vitiate energy meters, break security seals, modify energy equipment, sell or transfer to third parties, increase the load, or use electricity for purposes other than those established in the contracts are grounds for offense. In the case of individuals, the fine is between 20,000$00 and 20,000,000$00, in the case of “legal person or similar” values raise to between 100,000$00 and 10,000,000$00. In case of repeated infringement, the fines shall be doubled.

The law also establishes that the “offense proceedings are responsibility of the Directorate-General for Energy” and it is for the Director-General to apply the fines.

The amount of the fines paid: 40 % for the state, 40 % to the entity competent for instituting infraction proceedings and 20 % for the complainant of the offense.

The penultimate chapter is dedicated to preventive measures, being Electra responsible for developing “permanent programs to eliminate or minimize the occurrence of fraud and theft of electricity.” Among other measures, stand out, for example, the outsourcing of inspection, recovery and power cut, and the use of other materials/tools more effective. In this context is also considered the implementation of prepaid meters and other technically sophisticated means such as telemetry. The concessionary entity must improve its public image.

It is also stipulated the contribution of the General Inspectorate of Economic Activities and the National Police that “should create a plan to combat the fraud and theft of electricity”, in commercial establishments and other cases of illegal connections.

Contracts in clandestine homes

The law also envisages the introduction of a social tariff, aimed for low-income consumers who buy energy for their own consumption.

The legal diploma also authorizes the concessionary “to conclude, by December 31st 2015, for the supply of electricity to the owners of houses not included in the land register and located in areas not covered by the approved urban planning.”

The corresponding municipality must be notified of the conclusion of these contracts.

The document foresees that after its entry into force, a period of 90 days is given to illegal consumers to rectify their supply, “without any criminal consequence, or payment of the amount of energy consumed irregularly.” The concessionary company shall respond to requests for installation of meters within 45 days of the request.

A register of offenses will be created and the Government undertakes efforts for creating or allocating a specialized court for trial of theft and fraud energy.