28/07/2006

Fuel laundering plant discovered in Armagh

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have dismantled a large sophisticated fuel-laundering plant and seized 27,000 litres of illegal fuel during a joint operation with PSNI and Environmental Heritage Service yesterday.

The searches took place in the Killeavey area of County Armagh, where officers discovered the plant which is understood to have an estimated output of 280,000 litres of illegal fuel per week with a potential annual revenue loss of nearly £9 million.

HMRC also removed three tonnes of highly toxic acid waste and 500 litres of pure acid from the site.

A curtain-sided heavy goods vehicle adapted to carry a tanker body for transporting fuel, seven industrial tanks, generators, pumps and filtration equipment were also seized during the operation.

HMRC Head of Detection Northern Ireland, Maggie Eyden said: "In the second successful operation in the space of a week, Revenue & Customs officers have stopped a substantial amount of harmful diesel from damaging engines and affecting honest businesses. If this sophisticated operation to illegally remove the chemical markers in duty-rebated fuel had not been shut down, it would have meant an annual revenue loss of nearly £9 million. This is revenue that should be going to our schools and hospitals, not into the pockets of a few individuals.

"People need to be aware of the potential environmental damage that can be caused by the indiscriminate dumping in our countryside of the waste products from the laundering process. They need to consider what happens to the waste by product and the damage caused by contamination to arable land and our water and rivers as well as the cost to taxpayers and local ratepayers for its safe disposal."

She continued: "The success of this operation is a result of our determined efforts, along with our partners in the Organised Crime Task Force, to disrupt and dismantle the illegal supply of fuel. Organised crime has a detrimental and harmful effect on all our communities as well as a damaging impact on our environment. HMRC is keen to work closely with local people and communities in the fight against crime and I would urge the public to contact our freephone hotline 0800 59 5000 and let us know of any fuel misuse or suspicious activities in their area."

(EF/SP)

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