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Four arrested after major illegal fuel crackdown

Four men from Co Armagh have been arrested in a major cross- border operation to tackle suspected fuel fraud, tax evasion and money laundering.

A total of 11,400 litres of fuel, two vehicles, a sum of cash, fuel pumps and a fuel tank were seized in Co Antrim and Co Armagh yesterday.

A storage depot and filling stations across seven counties were raided yesterday morning in a co-ordinated operation on both sides of the border.

The operation was made possible by the Cross Border Fuel Fraud Enforcement Group, announced in the summer of 2008 by security Minister Paul Goggins and then financial secretary to the Treasury Jane Kennedy.

Officers from HM Revenue & Customs, supported by the PSNI, searched business premises in west Belfast where they dismantled a huckster site selling cheap smuggled green diesel.

Green diesel is the Republic of Ireland’s equivalent to the UK's red diesel, which is marked for use in agricultural machinery and not for use in road vehicles.

In Co Armagh, HMRC officers dismantled a fuel storage site with underground tanks containing 8,000 litres of laundered green diesel.

Laundered fuel , which has been filtered through chemicals or acids to remove the government marker is known to damage fuel pumps in diesel cars.

In counties Meath, Monaghan, Roscommon and Galway, Revenue’s Customs Service searched five commercial premises where fuel samples and business records were removed for examination.

Mike Connolly, assistant director of specialist investigations at HMRC, said: “The huckster site and filling stations we raided are operating at an unfair advantage over legitimate traders by selling fuel at a reduced rate. It is wrong that honest businesses should be undercut by criminals but our response is to ensure we are targeting those individuals and groups doing most economic harm in our communities.

“Today’s operation shows that those who think they can use the border as a way to commit crime or hide their criminal proceeds and escape justice, need to think again. This is just one operation stopping the loss of millions of pounds of taxpayer’s money, more will follow to dismantle criminal groups and their activities.”

Investigations are continuing and customs officers are appealing to anyone with information about activity they suspect may be linked to fuel fraud to call the Custom’s Hotline on 0800 595 000.

Belfast Telegraph