Belfast Telegraph

David Cameron is challenged on fuel crime sentences

By Adrian Rutherford

The Prime Minister has been challenged over the lack of jail sentences for criminals involved in the illicit fuel trade.

David Cameron was told it was "intolerable" that no one has been sent to prison for fuel laundering for 12 years.

Earlier this week the Belfast Telegraph revealed that an illegal fuel plant is raided every 10 days by customs officials. The number of plants being dismantled here each year has trebled in the last decade. Yet no one has been jailed for making illicit fuel since 2002.

DUP MP Willie McCrea raised the issue during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons yesterday.

Mr McCrea said it appeared that "terrorists and gangsters" were immune from prosecution.

He said: "There is anger that while customs officials close an illicit fuel plant every 10 days in Northern Ireland, the profits bankrolled republican terrorists for years and cost the economy millions, yet not one person has been jailed in the last 12 years.

"Do you agree this is an intolerable situation and will you intervene to have the immediate full operation of the National Crime Agency (NCA) in Northern Ireland?"

The NCA - an FBI-style crime body - is not operating here because it has been blocked by Sinn Fein and the SDLP. Mr Cameron said it was important to secure all-party agreement on the issue.

"First of all, no one who commits crimes in Northern Ireland should be immune from prosecution," he said.

"The point you make about the National Crime Agency is important... it should be playing a part in Northern Ireland.

"That's a discussion we need to have with all the parties in Northern Ireland."

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