The first conviction in Wales for hot tapping – where criminals break into oil pipelines – has been made following an incident in Pembrokeshire where 2,000 litres of diesel were stolen.

Iulian Neacsu, aged 21, received a 21-month sentence for damage to and theft from the pipeline. Nicolae Petre, aged 36 and Constantin Dumitrescu, aged 31, both received nine- month sentences for going equipped.

They changed their pleas to guilty on the second day of their trial and were sentenced at Swansea Crown Court.

Dyfed-Powys Police worked closely with the National Crime Agency, North Wales Police and West Mercia Police to investigate the incident and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which forms part of the national Operation Methane.

Examination of the remote location where the hot tapping occurred led to a number of items of interest, including a receipt that belonged to one of the offenders being recovered.

Detective sergeant Dale Scriven said: “This is a significant outcome for Dyfed-Powys Police and for Wales. Not only were we able to secure convictions for going equipped, but for damage and theft from the pipeline.

“We had to work fast time in this investigation to catch the offenders before they were able to disappear from our radar.

“A golden nugget was the finding of the receipt at the scene of the crime, along with other items of forensic interest.

“Some excellent Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) work was carried out, which allowed us to track the offenders’ vehicle as they attempted to get away from the scene. By tracking the car’s movements and working with our neighbouring police forces, we were then able to stop the car on the A483 in Llanymynech and make the arrests.

“I hope this delivers a clear strong message to anyone else involved in this type of criminality not to come to Dyfed-Powys. We are not an easy option and we will follow all lines of enquiry to catch offenders.”