Northern Ireland

Major cross-border operation against illegal fuel trade

Scene of CAB raid at property in south Armagh
Image caption Police from Northern Ireland were involved in a search at a property in south Armagh on Wednesday
Search being carried out on the south Armagh/Louth border
Image caption Searches are taking place in 10 Irish counties as part of a cross-border operation
Search on the South Armagh/Louth border
Image caption The investigation is being led by the Irish Republic's Criminal Assets Bureau
Search on the South Armagh/Louth border
Image caption More than 300 staff are involved in the investigation known as Operation Loft
Search on the South Armagh/Louth border
Image caption Ten businesses, seven houses and two warehouses were searched as part of a cross-border operation
Search on the South Armagh/Louth border
Image caption For economic reasons, farmers and some industries get diesel considerably cheaper than road users

Police and customs officers from Northern Ireland have taken part in a major cross-border operation against fuel laundering and organised crime.

Searches were carried out in 10 Irish counties.

The operation was led by the Irish Republic's Criminal Assets Bureau and was aimed a south Armagh/north Louth criminal gang with republican links. .

A laundering plant in Castleblaney, County Monaghan, had the capacity to launder 10m litres per year.

Irish customs said that was a potential loss to the exchequer of 5.5m euros.

More than 300 staff were involved in the operation, including more than 100 personnel from Northern Ireland.

On Wednesday morning, 19 raids were carried out in Louth, Monaghan, Dublin, Kildare, Waterford, Offaly, Roscommon, Westmeath, Meath and Tipperary.

Ten businesses, seven houses and two warehouses were searched.

Irish Customs officers also recovered 40,000 litres of fuel, along with 16 Intermediate bulk containers, which are used to transport and store liquids, and each containing 1,000 litres of toxic waste, from the site at Dromore, Castleblayney.

A 40-foot trailer and 150 bags of bleaching earth were also seized.

The investigation, known as Operation Loft, was conducted jointly with the Republic's Office of the Revenue Commissioners and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

It was supported by the Garda (Irish police) Air Support Unit and the Air Corps and special police units on both sides of the border.

Fuel intended for farmers and some industries is sold at a tax-discounted rate and coloured with a dye to identify it.

Launderers remove the dye and sell the fuel on as fully-taxed road diesel.

In a statement, the gardai said the investigation was focused on the suspected involvement of an organised crime group based in County Louth.

"The objectives of the operation are to seize evidence of assets deriving from oil fraud and money laundering, seize and dismantle illegal oil operations, seize cash or other assets including vehicles used in the criminal activity and to freeze bank accounts," the statement added.

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