‘James Bond’ style ejector system used to dump fuel waste

November 20, 2012

By Christine Keighery

A van fitted with a hydraulic ejector pad, believed to be of use in the diesel laundering process, was discovered alongside another van containing a storage tank with 1,000 litres of illegal fuel, following a HM Revenue & Customs operation in Crossmaglen last Wednesday.

John Whiting, assistant director of criminal investigation at HMRC, said both vehicles had been adapted for the purpose of diesel fraud, with one van adapted to transport the laundered diesel whilst the other was fitted with what he described as, “a James Bond-style ejector system, whereby waste product could be ejected from the back of a vehicle very quickly and fly-tipped at the side of the road.”

“Both vehicles are unsafe for use on our roads and show a total disregard for the safety of other motorists. This indiscriminate dumping of waste is a very real threat to the environment and costs the tax and rate payers thousands of pounds in clean-up costs” he said.

“These vehicles were not designed for the transport of large quantities of fuel so we would encourage anyone with information about this type of activity to contact us on the Custom’s Hotline on 0800 59 5000.”

One man was arrested in connection with the discovery of the plant and is being questioned by HMRC.

Last Wednesday’s joint operation between police and customs resulted in the dismantling of the plant, the sixteenth such facility to have been raided since April this year.  HMRC revealed that over two tonnes of toxic waste were removed from the Crossmaglen farm, which was believed to be capable of producing more than one million litres of illicit fuel a year, and was evading almost £700,000 of revenue.

Commenting on the continuing crackdown on diesel laundering throughout the province, Mr Whiting admitted that those who operate the plants are often not apprehended during raids so the likelihood is that they will simply open new laundering plants.

“I don’t think it’s a losing battle, but I think it’s a continuing battle,” he said.

He added that a joint project to find a more robust fuel marker was jointly launched with authorities in the Republic of Ireland in the summer.

“We’ve got an interim project here in Northern Ireland which has increased the strength of the current marker, that has just started earlier this month,” he said.

“We’ve also set up a procurement opportunity for industry to come up with a new, more robust marker.

“That project is on-going and has very tight timescales within the next 12 months for that project to be completed.”

In a further development in the fight against fuel fraud, Northern Ireland HMRC may soon acquire new powers to appeal lenient sentences given to fuel fraudsters.  The move follows talks between HM Revenue and Customs and the Justice Department, which now intends to begin a consultation process on changing the law.

Commenting on the discovery of the Crossmaglen plant, local SDLP councillor Geraldine Donnelly said,

“I am so disappointed that this activity is still going on, producing another two ton of toxic waste which no doubt would have ended up dumped in our district.

“For me, the potential dangers to our local watercourses and public health of dumping such an enormous amount of toxic sludge is more concerning than the significant revenue losses.

“I am also concerned that HMRC, charged in dealing with the problem are spending so much time and effort in trying to invent a stronger fuel marker, and arguing in court about their powers to challenge sentences.

“Last month my colleague Cllr Michael Carr and I took a motion to council, which was overwhelmingly agreed, calling for an end to the price differential between road and marked diesel along with the introduction of a registration and rebate scheme for users.  This is a practical solution to the problem, could be introduced quickly and will eliminate the practice of laundering because there is no profit or motivation in doing so.”