Darwen operation uncovers diesel-laundering plant
A diesel-laundering plant and filling station has been uncovered in Lancashire, HM Revenue and Customs say.
The Darwen plant was capable of processing 26m litres of fuel a year, enabling operators to evade an estimated £14.5m in duty a year.
The HMRC said the operation allegedly removed government markers on diesel and then sold it on as legitimate fuel.
Pat Curtis, of the HMRC - which worked with police on the inquiry - said such sites can be "highly dangerous".
"Some hazardous waste from illicit fuel has been proven to be carcinogenic," he said.
"We believe that fuel was stored, laundered and sold from this property without any safety precautions, endangering motorists buying fuel there.
Laundered fuel is red (or green) diesel, which has been filtered through chemicals or acids to remove the government marker.
The chemicals and acids remain in the fuel and damage fuel pumps in diesel cars.
Each year, £480m is lost in duty to fuel fraud in the UK
"You may think buying illicit fuel is a bargain, but you have no idea what you're getting, and you can be sure that you are lining the pockets of criminals."
The filling station has been shut and two mixing tanks, each with a 71,000-litre capacity, 12,000 litres of suspected laundered fuel, a fork lift truck and other equipment were seized during a search of the site on Tuesday, said the HMRC.
Det Sgt Tim Brown, of Lancashire Police, said: "The laundering of red diesel is illegal and this type of activity can go further with those involved often being linked to other organised criminality."