Northern Ireland

MPs told only four NI fuel smuggling sentences in ten years

MPs have been told there have only been four custodial sentences for fuel smuggling or laundering in NI in the last ten years.

The figure was made public at Westminster where senior customs officials were giving evidence to members of the Northern Ireland Affairs committee.

MPs want to know the extent of fuel smuggling and laundering launched an investigation.

The findings have surprised MPs.

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley claimed that customs officials were using 18th century tools to deal with a 21st century problem.

However, Mike Norgrove the director of excise, said his staff were being successful in disrupting smugglers and those laundering fuel.

He said in dealing with cross-border operations - the best solution was not always a prosecution - and often illegal plants could be removed with the help of other agencies.

In 2008, an all-Ireland anti-fuel fraud group was formed to help drive those who trade illegally in fuel out of business.

Representatives of the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the PSNI, customs on both sides of the border and the Republic's Criminal Assets Bureau are involved.

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