PUMA energy recently came into Belize to replace Esso as the country's monopoly importer of fuels.

And tonight it is under scrutiny because pump prices are the highest they have ever been - almost thirteen dollars a gallon for premium gas in the city - and that's because Government reduced its tax take by 25 cents! If not, it would have been $13.22 per gallon for premium in the city and almost 13.50 in Punta Gorda. Wow!

So how did we get to this astronomically high price? Indeed, world fuel prices are high - but 7news has been digging down into the numbers - and it seems that PUMA energy may be biting off a little more than it should.

The current shipment of fuel was shipped on August 21st. and according to the Platt's index, on that day the US Gulf Coast Price for a gallon of premium $3.2925 US dollars.

But then PUMA puts a standard premium or offshore margin unto that price - which brings what's known as the FOB Price to approximately 3.55 US dollars per gallon. But that's a premium of almost 28 cents US per gallon! Those we spoke to say that margin should be there, but it should only be about 9 cents US per gallon.

We asked PUMA for comment and they only told us that, quote, "we kindly urge you to connect with the Ministry of Finance of Belize before running a new story based on the information..."

Well we did speak to the ministry of finance, but, incredibly, they said they are bound to confidentiality when it comes to the FOB Price and that cannot be disclosed.

They only told us that the landed cost is 3.83 US dollars.

We'll keep following this end of the story, but commenting on what we reported last night about a low grade of diesel that contaminates fuel filters, PUMA Energy today issued a statement saying, quote, "We source our fuels internationally, and we commit significant resources in pursuit of product quality´┐Ż.The grade of diesel fuel that Puma Energy supplies in Belize complies with specifications agreed for Central America, and they are the same for Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua."

And on the soaring price of regular and premium and the stable price of diesel, they said, quote:"Our fuels supply business in Belize is based on forecasted country demand. Puma Energy does not dictate fuel prices, neither for diesel nor gasoline. Gasoline and diesel prices in Belize are determined by international market prices and the supply chain margins are fully regulated. Every time a ship arrives in Belize, the government reviews and approves the new prices for the product that has been acquired." End quote.

We agree, the government does review it - but the technicians at the Ministry of Finance don't have access to the relevant data, which is in what is known as the Platt's price index - so they cannot cross check and certify the information that PUMA gives them.

Worse than that, the Ministry today told us it cannot share that information with the public - which is preposterous.

Channel 7