Belfast Telegraph

South Armagh fuel laundering plant 'most sophisticated ever found' in Northern Ireland

Plant capable of pumping out 16 million litres of illegal fuel each year, say customs

By Chris Kilpatrick

Customs experts have described a fuel laundering plant in south Armagh as the most sophisticated ever found in Northern Ireland.

The complex plant -- capable of pumping out 16 million litres of illegal fuel each year -- was discovered near Crossmaglen.

A huge security operation was in place throughout today as the intricate system was put beyond use.

Around 73,000 litres of fuel were previously removed from the tank.

Customs officials said it had the capacity to launder 16 million litres of fuel each year, resulting in a potential loss to HM Revenue and Customs of £10m.

Twenty tonnes of potentially deadly waste was discovered nearby. One man was arrested.

The operation coincided with the introduction of new legislation aimed at toughening sentencing of fuel and tobacco fraudsters.

The Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland now has the power to appeal sentences for such excise evasion on the grounds of undue leniency.

John Whiting of HMRC, welcomed the move but said more had to be done to eradicate a crime which costs the public purse tens of millions of pounds each year.

“It really is significant the amount of money can be made from this type of criminality,” said Mr Whiting, who was present in Co Armagh today.

“The public probably does not realise the amount of money that is available to those engaged in this crime.

“When they buy a tank of fuel from a filling station it probably comes down to pence and a few pounds.

“But when we build it right up through a laundry plant like we see here it’s many thousands and, over the years millions, of pounds which is the potential profit for the criminal.

“We do need a serious deterrent factor for those engaged in this crime.”

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