22/05/2002

Clamp down on illegal fuel laundering continues

Customs and Excise officers have seized nearly 8,000 litres of illegal fuel in west Belfast today.

Three plastic containers of fuel on board a Ford lorry were discovered during the raid alongside four storage tanks of fuel that were concealed behind a wall.

Police were alerted after they noticed suspicious activity at Conway Mill on the Falls Road in west Belfast around 8am on Wednesday morning.

A police spokesman said the fuel, storage tanks, pumps and lorry were seized but no arrests were made.

The latest swoop follows hot on the heels of the closure of two major fuel-laundering plants in as many days. Last Friday police and customs officers found what they believe to be Northern Ireland's biggest diesel laundering plant.

The plant was discovered at a farmhouse just outside Newry in County Down and was capable of producing over 1 million litres of illegal diesel per month, meaning a potential duty loss of around half a million pounds.

Meanwhile, a man has been arrested in connection with alleged diesel laundering uncovered in County Antrim last week. The illegal fuel plant near Antrim town was closed down by the police and Customs and Excise officers on Wednesday morning.

The diesel factory was discovered following a search of a building in Islandreagh. Officers found a 40ft trailer containing six tanks, each of which had 4,300 litres of contaminated fuel. A jeep, a forklift truck and a number of power tools were also recovered.

Concerns over the upsurge in fuel smuggling were raised at a Northern Ireland Select Committee hearing at Westminster today.

The Federation of Small Businesses gave evidence as part of the continuing inquiry into the difference in fuel prices between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

(AMcE)

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