11/07/2003

Vehicle cheats tackled in 12-day operation

A 12-day multi-agency vehicle operation has caught 104 commercial and private vehicles operating on illegal fuel across Northern Ireland.

Mobile Customs teams and specialist road fuel officers carried out the operation with the Police and the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Northern Ireland (DVLNI), during which over 660 vehicles were stopped and tested for illegal fuel.

Of the 104 vehicles seized by Customs, 59 were commercial and 45 were private. Ninety vehicles were restored on payment of fines totalling £70,000 while two of the vehicles seized had been specially adapted for the concealment of smuggled fuel.

Follow up searches uncovered 9,700 litres of smuggled fuel in a concealed underground tank at farm premises in the Moy area of Co Tyrone and 7,400 litres of contaminated fuel at an address in Seaforde, Co Down. In total 20,000 litres of illegal fuel was seized during the operation.

Commenting on the find, Northern Ireland Customs' anti-smuggling manager, John Spence, said: "This operation shows the benefit of multi-agency working, as part of the Organised Crime Task Force, in tackling vehicle cheats.

"Illegal fuel - whether used commercially or privately – undermines honest fillings stations, steals cash meant for hospitals and schools and damages vehicle engines.

"Enquiries are ongoing into the illegal fuel use detected. It is no longer the case that using illegal fuel is worth the risk. All companies who had commercial vehicles detected will face audit and could be liable to heavier fines in respect of previous misuse."

Mr Spence appealed for anyone with information on such activities to contact Customs on the free 24-hour hotline on 0800 59 5000.

(MB)

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