30/01/2004

Customs raids net huge contraband haul

Smuggled cigarettes and thousands of litres of illegal fuel have been seized by Customs following swoops on three fillings stations in south Down and south Armagh yesterday.

In total, Customs officers, with support from PSNI, seized more than 60,000 litres of illegal fuel and nearly 25,000 smuggled cigarettes.

At a filling station in Newry, Customs seized a lorry that had been "professionally adapted" with a concealed tank for illegally transporting fuel. Up to 23,000 litres of illegal fuel was also recovered.

At Camlough, 24,990 cigarettes and 4.5 kilos of handrolling tobacco along with pods, pumps and a beehive tank were recovered, and some 37,000 litres of illegal fuel.

And 1,450 litres of illegal fuel were also seized at a petrol station in Warrenpoint.

A spokesperson for Customs said that all three filling stations had failed to comply with Customs regulations for both VAT registration and Registered Dealers in Controlled Oils (RDCO).

Customs Head of Detection Northern Ireland Colin McAllister said that the seizures showed the benefits of "multi-agency" cooperation under the auspices of the Organised Crime Task Force.

"These operations have stopped a substantial amount of harmful fuel entering the legitimate fuel market and damaging honest trade," he said.

"Motorists need to be aware of the full costs of buying cheap diesel. It puts honest fillings stations out of business, robs the taxpayer of money for public services.

"The public also need to be aware of the environmental and safety issues surrounding the illegal transport of volatile fuels."

(gmcg)

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