Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein challenged on what it knows about smuggling

By John Downing

Sinn Fein has been challenged to "tell more about what they know" about fuel smuggling and so-called fuel laundering by a European Commissioner.

EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan said it was plain that the fuel rackets were carried by criminals with links to so-called "dissident republicans." But, without specifically mentioning Sinn Fein, he raised questions about these dissidents' links to the political systems north and south.

"It is clear the criminal gangs involved in fuel rackets have breakaway paramilitaries among their members. Some of these are close to the political process and some of their windfall gains may be making their way into the political process," the Irish commissioner said.

Asked if he was specifically accusing Sinn Fein and raising questions about the IRA, the commissioner replied: "Well, I think that Sinn Fein in government in the north could be more assertive in bringing the people involved in these rackets to heel. I think they should tell us what they know."

After a visit to Northern Ireland, Mr Hogan said Belfast political sources had told him the fuel rackets were worth £38m per year.

He said he would speak to the EU Environment Commissioner, Karmenu Vella of Malta, on how best to assist Irish and British authorities.

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