Customs crackdown as smuggling of heating oil from the North soars
CUSTOMS officers are cracking down on home heating-oil smugglers who are exploiting rising prices here to bring in cheaper products from the North.
Officers have already made seven seizures of Northern kerosene, amounting to almost 10,000 litres.
This compares with a total of 27,500 litres confiscated in 16 seizures during 2010.
If current trends continue, last year's total is likely to be more than doubled.
The crackdown is being led by staff from the Revenue anti-evasion team.
Officers hope to bring criminal prosecutions against a number of suspected smugglers and files have been submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The Revenue became aware of an increase in the illegal movement of kerosene from the North after the introduction here of a carbon tax, which added €32 to the cost of 1,000 litres.
A big spike in prices here recently has pushed the cost of home-heating oil to over €840 per 1,000 litres, representing a rise of 40pc in the past year. This compares with Stg£530 (€616) in the North.
As the prices rose, advertisements were placed in local papers, from suppliers in the North, offering to deliver metered loads to a customer's house and others offering to rent a container for delivery.
There is no evidence of the involvement of organised crime gangs in the smuggling but Revenue investigators have detected a rise in the number of residents here bringing in 1,000 litres at a time for private use.
Users have been warned that they do not have a personal duty-free allowance to allow them to bring in oil from another EU state.
A person taking oil across the Border from the North must notify the local revenue office and pay taxes, including the carbon tax, on the oil.
Larger operators are touring housing estates in towns and villages, mainly in the Border region, to sell the kerosene at cheaper prices.
But the biggest profits are being made by those, who organise tankers to deliver kerosene, sourced in the North, to forecourts in the Republic and then sell the cheaper product at top prices.
Meanwhile, gardai believe organised gangs rather than opportunists are behind a spate of raids on oil tanks nationwide.
Officers estimate a 400pc increase in home-heating tank raids over the past five months.
Thefts have been reported in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Tipperary and Laois.