Diesel laundering waste among largest amount ever found

November 10, 2014

An illegal fuel laundering plant uncovered close to Forkhill village on Tuesday contained one of the largest amounts of toxic waste ever found, HM Customs and Revenue has claimed.

Customs officials said the dismantling of the plant, which was found in a farm shed, averted “a potential environmental disaster”.

Almost 50 tonnes of toxic sludge, the by-product of laundered fuel, along with 2,000 litres of illicit diesel, pumps and equipment, were found on the premises.

HMRC senior investigation officer Derek Dubery revealed it will cost £400 per tonne to clean up – approximately £20,000.

“That’s a lot of money that could be spent on more essential public services,” he said.

He said the only way the fuel launderers could be beaten was with the help of the public.

“Clearly people want to buy cheaper fuel. What people have to ask themselves is whether they support organised crime; whether they support damage to the environment.  Because if they don’t support organised crime, if they don’t want to see damage to the environment, then they shouldn’t be buying this fuel.”

Welcoming the prevention of an “environmental disaster”, Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said: “This could have been a disaster for people in the area and for the environment. Fuel laundering and the reckless dumping of the highly toxic waste products is totally irresponsible and very dangerous. It harms communities on a number of levels and shows a total disregard for the environment of Northern Ireland on which we all depend on for our quality of life and livelihoods. The money spent on cleaning up after criminals could be much better spent in Northern Ireland to secure a better environment for the whole community.”

His party colleague, Dominic Bradley MLA, said people in the area “are fed up” with fuel laundering activity.

“Those responsible are not interested in anything or anyone only themselves.  They have no respect for this community or the beautiful countryside of south Armagh, Louth or Monaghan, which have been using as a dumping ground for their hazardous waste.

‘Those responsible are only interested in lining their own pockets, they care not for this country, this community nor the motorist who gets their car damaged because of their hideous product. “

Ulster Unionist councillor David Taylor said the find has highlighted the huge task faced by the PSNI and HMRC in combatting criminality in the south Armagh area.

“These fuel laundering plants are not only doing untold damage to the local environment but it is also placing significant costs upon taxpayers. The local community has been calling for a co-ordinated effort between all the relevant legal authorities to stamp this illegal activity out once and for all and operations such as that carried out in Forkhill this week will be no doubt warmly welcomed.”

Claiming the fuel laundering activity is linked to “Republican paramilitary elements”, Councillor Taylor says it will only be eradicated “through the full force of the law”.

“It is therefore vital that agencies such as the PSNI and HMRC are provided with the necessary resources to effectively combat and eradicate this form of criminality in the south Armagh area.”

The unionist councillor also questioned the “uncompromising position” taken by Sinn Fein and the SDLP in “deterring the National Crime Agency operating to its full ability in Northern Ireland”.

“Both Parties need to review their position on this issue as a matter of urgency or else questions will continue to remain within the local community as to their genuine commitment to supporting the rule of law and order,” he said.