Rise in fuel laundering court cases promised
There is set to be a "significant increase" in prosecutions for fuel laundering in Northern Ireland, officials said yesterday.
Giving evidence to MPs at Westminster, senior prosecutors also admitted sentences for the crime were lagging behind the rest of the UK.
Barra McGrory, Northern Ireland's Director of Public Prosecutions, said: "My understanding is that HMRC are going to be significantly increasing the number of files that they are sending to us."
Prosecutors have a 90% success rate for every file they are passed, he said, adding: "There need to be more cases coming to us, and the indication is that that is going to happen."
Throughout their investigation into fuel laundering, members of the Northern Ireland Affairs committee have expressed their frustration to officials over who is responsible for lax sentencing and a lack of information on how much is lost to the Exchequer through the crime.
Mr McGrory said around £5m a year was recovered through confiscation orders, but it was not possible to say how much of this related to fuel smuggling.
The DUP's David Simpson said: "The figure is pretty small. In layman's terms, it's peanuts."
Mr Simpson pointed to the estimated loss to the public purse of around £150m a year because of the practice.
He said: "We have had a lot of people giving evidence to this committee. The general public out there are frustrated by this, and members of the committee are frustrated."
Meanwhile, last month senior PSNI officers told the committee that Northern Ireland's bureaucratic legal process meant one human trafficking prosecution had dragged on for three years.
Asked about this yesterday, Mr McGrory said he was aware of the case, but not of any major delays.