25/06/2004

Customs seize five fuel tankers in Belfast

Customs officers confirmed that five fuel tankers and over 13,000 litres of fuel were seized during a multi-agency operation in Belfast on Wednesday.

Working with the police, Customs officers said that the vehicles and fuel was seized as part of an operation aimed at targeting bulk fuel transport vehicles.

Customs Head of Detection Northern Ireland Colin McAllister said: “This is part of our ongoing activity to detect not only the smuggling and laundering of illegal fuel, but also the onward transport, sale and use across Northern Ireland.

“Illegal fuel - whether used commercially or privately - undermines honest businesses and robs the honest taxpayer of funds which should go into public services. Companies willing to use illegal fuel have an unfair advantage and are therefore making it more difficult for legitimate companies to compete.

“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 have commercial vehicles detected will face audit and could be liable to heavier fines in respect of previous misuse.”

Following the detection of two fuel tankers running on illegal fuel during a series of roadside checks, three more tankers were seized in a follow up operation at a commercial site in Belfast.

Subsequent tests on fuel in a storage tank at the site resulted in the seizure of 13,300 litres of contaminated fuel.

Customs said that the five fuel tankers were subequently released on payment of £5,000, but the company concerned will face a detailed audit to establish the extent of the misuse.

Customs estimate that the evasion of road fuel duty and legitimate cross-border shopping in Northern Ireland cost £340 million in 2002.

Since Customs put in place a strategy to counter evasion of road fuel duty, deliveries of legitimate fuel have risen by 7% for two successive years.

(SP)

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