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European edition, Thursday, May 10, 2007

RAF MILDENHALL, England — Two major British retailers have resolved most of the claims connected to a batch of silicon-tainted fuel that affected thousands of motorists.

Britain’s largest supermarket chain, Tesco, announced earlier this week that it already closed 90 percent of its claims. Morrisons, another supermarket with filling stations, said it has resolved 94 percent of its claims.

Tesco paid roughly 18,000 motorists a total of 8 million pounds ($16 million), according to a company spokesman.

“We said instantly that customers would not be out of pocket,” Tesco spokesman David Nieberg said Wednesday. “We said we’d do the right thing, and that’s what we’ve done.”

Claims by American servicemembers whose vehicles were allegedly damaged by the same batch of silicone-tainted fuel after they bought gas from AAFES have not yet been resolved.

Lt. Col. Dave Konop, spokesman for Army and Air Force Exchange Service Europe, and 3rd Air Force Maj. John Haynes, spokesman for 3rd Air Force, who are handling media queries on the issue, did not respond by deadline Wednesday to a Stars and Stripes query.

Harvest Energy, the British company that supplied the bad fuel to the British retailers as well as RAFs Mildenhall and Alconbury roughly two months ago, said Wednesday that the matter was being “investigated by our insurance company.”

Company officials have refused to answer any questions from Stripes since an independent testing company confirmed Harvest supplied the two bases with tainted fuel.

The London-based energy firm supplied the bases with an unspecified amount of silicone-tainted fuel between late February and early March that adversely affected oxygen sensors and prompted a rash of vehicle troubles for servicemembers.

Roughly 75 Americans filed claims for compensation at legal offices on RAFs Mildenhall, Lakenheath and Alconbury.

Konop said last month that AAFES was coordinating with Harvest Energy, formerly Futura Petroleum Ltd., to secure a lump-sum payment to compensate the American motorists who bought bad fuel.

An official at RAF Mildenhall’s legal office who was handling the claims was not available for comment Wednesday. RAF Alconbury Staff Judge Advocate Maj. Paul Connolly said there has been no movement on the claims.

“To our knowledge, no one has been paid,” Connolly said.

Tesco and Morrisons paid motorists out of each company’s funds and is working with Harvest to retrieve that money.

The Defense Energy Support Center is in its third year of a five-year contract with Harvest Energy valued at $15 million, according to center spokesman Patrick Jones.

Harvest Energy is one of five British energy firms that supply fuel to the military, Jones said.

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