Belfast Telegraph

MPs want more fuel crime deterrents

A powerful committee of MPs has expressed bitter disappointment at the lack of progress on new measures to tackle fuel fraud in Northern Ireland.

Customs officials should redouble efforts to acquire the latest marker technology to prevent rebated diesel from being sold at higher prices by criminal gangs and paramilitaries, the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee added.

Launderers who remove the dye to allow the sale of cut-price agricultural diesel to ordinary motorists cost district councils £330,000 for waste removal during the last five years, the committee's report said.

Laurence Robertson, chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee, said: "We are bitterly disappointed at the seemingly slow pace of progress on acquiring effective technologies to tackle fuel crime."

He urged Revenue and Customs to focus on acquiring the latest and best rebated fuel marker technology as soon as possible, commence a pilot scheme and report back to the committee before summer.

Northern Ireland is estimated to have lost £70 million in tax revenue due to fuel fraud in 2009/10, down from £250 million five years ago. While 4% of diesel sold in Great Britain is illicit, in Northern Ireland the comparable figure is 12%.

The report said: "The problem is also particularly acute in Northern Ireland because of links between organised criminal gangs and paramilitaries."

Revenue and Customs conducts random roadside testing of vehicles using technology developed in-house.

The committee said it was recognised that the effectiveness and deterrence value of this testing programme would be greater if the marker added to rebated fuel was much more difficult and expensive to remove.

A Revenue and Customs spokesman said: "The Government is studying the report and will respond formally in due course. We have an effective strategy in place to tackle fuel fraud, as shown by the fall in the estimated market share in Northern Ireland for diesel on which UK duty has not been paid from 52% in 2002/03 to 12% in 2009/10."

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