Let National Crime Agency off leash to catch fuel smugglers: Danny Kennedy
There has been a call for the National Crime Agency to be "let off its leash" to tackle fuel smugglers.
Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy made the call as it emerged that illicit diesel accounts for a staggering 13% of the total market share.
The illegal trade, which has helped to bankroll the IRA and more recently dissidents, costs the economy £80m a year.
Customs officials are proactive in their fight - busting, on average, an illicit fuel plant every 10 days - but illegal fuel still accounts for a large share of sales.
This figure was revealed by the Government at Westminster in response to a parliamentary question put by Lord Empey.
It was also revealed that while 14 people were convicted of fuel laundering in 2011/12, just seven were convicted in 2012/13 and six in 2013/14. Mr Kennedy, who is an MLA for Newry and Armagh, described the market share figure as "staggering".
"I sincerely hope the National Crime Agency will be let off the leash and will prove a great support to the police and the HMRC as they bid to combat the organised crime gangs who make millions of pounds from this illegal trade," he said.