Northern Ireland

HMRC find two fuel laundering plants in County Armagh

Customs officers have uncovered two fuel laundering plants in County Armagh in the last week.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said the facilities had a combined capacity to produce almost 18m litres of illicit diesel a year with an estimated £12m annual loss to the public purse.

On Tuesday HMRC staff, accompanied by police, raided premises in Crossmaglen.

In a separate incident a laundering plant was discovered in Derrynoose last Friday.

It was uncovered during a search of agricultural outbuildings at a private residence.

Two HGV vehicles, 21,000 litres of illicit fuel and associated equipment were removed from the site.

HMRC officers also seized a 40ft curtain sided trailer, containing two 15,000 litre tanks, recently adapted as a mobile laundering plant.

It had the potential to produce almost 11m litres of illicit fuel a year at a cost of around £7m in lost revenue.

Toxic waste

In the incident in Crossmaglen, a fuel laundering plant, capable of producing over seven million litres of illicit fuel a year and evading almost £4.7m of duty, was discovered.

During searches, officers found a newly made concrete pen containing thousands of litres of toxic waste - the by-product of the laundering process.

Four HGVs, all of which had been adapted to transport the laundered fuel, tanks, pumps and equipment, were removed from the site.

Mike Connolly, assistant director, specialist investigations, HMRC said: "We take the dangerous and illegal practice of laundering fuel very seriously.

"The by-products from the laundering process can cause severe damage to the environment with taxpayers and local rate-payers having to pay for the clean up and disposal costs.

"There is also a risk to other road users from the transport of laundered fuel. The vehicles used are unsafe and the dangers they pose to anyone in the vicinity show a total disregard for public safety."

Investigations are continuing.