Malta’s government has regulated to set tougher penalties against electricity theft following the country’s smart meter tampering scandal, causing revenue losses of €30 million in a year.

National utility Enemalta published a legal notice this week informing customers that anyone caught stealing electricity will have to repay the estimated amount of energy taken as well as a 200 per cent fine on top.

The government will be coming down harder on repeat offenders, who will face a 400 per cent surcharge on the amount stolen, said local media.

Consumers who still fail to learn their lesson will have the 200 per cent surcharge multiplied by the number of repeat offences.

The harsher penalties follow the exposure of a smart meter racket involving Enemalta employees, customers and at least 1,000 tampered units.

Smart meter tampering

Two Enemalta technicians have already been jailed in the corruption and nine people suspended, but Prime Minister Joseph Muscat told the Global Smart Grid Federation in June 2014 that such was the scale of the scandal that the number of those involved was likely to have been more.

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 gave information about the theft.

The deadline for the amnesty was in April 2015 and 400 consumers came forward.

The government had warned that it would pursue consumers with criminal and civil action if they failed to come forward but has yet to confirm further action.

Settling arrears

The government 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.

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.