Belfast Telegraph

Dissidents 'behind fuel racket'

Dissident republicans are involved in fuel laundering in Northern Ireland, a Westminster committee has heard.

Customs officers are conducting four operations against criminal gangs allegedly taking part in the racket.

Environment minister Alex Attwood said it was unclear whether dissidents were behind those particular cases.

Mr Attwood gave evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee of MPs at Westminster.

"It is quite clear and there has been evidence that there are those involved in fuel smuggling and tobacco smuggling who can have relationships with republican dissident organisations, so there are definitely relationships."

He said most cases involved the Newry and Mourne council area, which includes South Armagh.

"The potential of threat mitigates against reporting crime," he said.

"There is evidence emerging that citizens are now beginning to pass on information."

Figures from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for 2010/11 show widespread diesel laundering and illegal sales across Northern Ireland.

With 60% of pump prices down to taxation there is a plenty of room for the black market to profit from drivers.

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