GREECE: Oil strike was university's fuel tank

Oil speculators were delighted when they discovered that instead of drilling for so-called 'black gold' in the North Sea, Alaska, Antarctica or some other God-forsaken place, they could get it a lot easier and cheaper a lot closer at home and more specifically from the reservoirs of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki which was using the oil for heating their sprawling premises.

Large amounts of heating oil were stolen from the Aristotle University's reservoirs during 1999 to 2004 by person or persons unknown, causing financial damage to the institution.

The theft would have gone unnoticed but for the university's decision to change the method of heating its premises from oil to gas for reasons of economy.

In April 2004, after the gas heating system had been installed, the maintenance department proceeded to establish how much heating oil remained unused in the reservoirs, mainly for security reasons (such as fire, fumes or sabotage) but also to return the surplus oil to the suppliers and receive a refund.

Imagine their surprise when they discovered the tanks which according to invoices should have been full, were completely empty. A subsequent more detailed inquiry revealed that heating oil worth many hundreds of thousands of euros had been successfully siphoned off over a long period - probably mostly over the five-year period between 1999 and 2004.

Those involved in the theft are believed to have been in some way connected with the university but are not necessarily members of its staff. The results of the university's inquiry have been handed to the District Attorney who will carry out an official investigation and will probably level criminal charges against the perpetrators - if ever they became known.

That is extremely unlikely given the propensity of the authorities to cover up such scandals as quickly as possible.

Moral: If you ever strike oil in your back garden make sure it is not your neighbour's fuel tank.