‘Most sophisticated’ fuel laundering plant dismantled

December 16, 2013

The most sophisticated fuel laundering facility ever detected in Northern Ireland has been shut down – on the same day new legislation aimed at jailing fraudsters came into effect.

A complex fuel laundering plant – capable of pumping out 16 million litres of fuel each year –discovered outside Crossmaglen on Monday has been shut down.

Described by customs officials as the most sophisticated fuel laundering facility ever detected in the north, a huge security operation was in place throughout the day as the system was put beyond use.

Around 73,000 litres of fuel were removed from huge tanks and twenty tonnes of toxic waste was discovered nearby. One man was arrested.

The operation coincided with the introduction of new legislation aimed at tougher sentencing of fuel and tobacco fraudsters.

The Director of Public Prosecutions now has the power to appeal sentences for such excise evasion on the grounds of undue leniency.

Despite hundreds of arrests over the past decade nobody in Northern Ireland has been jailed over fuel fraud since 2002.

John Whiting of HMRC welcomed the move, but said more had to be done to eradicate a crime, which costs the public tens of millions of pounds annually.

“It really is significant, the amount of money can be made from this type of criminality,” said Mr Whiting.

“Probably the public does not realise the amount of money that is available to those engaged in this crime.

“When they buy a tank full of fuel from a filling station it probably comes down to pence and a few pounds.  But when we build it right up through a laundry plant like we see here it’s many thousands and, over the years, millions, of pounds, which is the potential profit for the criminal.”

Justice Minister David Ford also visited the site during the dismantling process.

He said he introduced the legislation in response to concerns raised with him regarding the perceived leniency of sentencing.