Raid uncovers huge fuel launder racket
TWO diesel laundering plants were raided within a 12-hour period as officers uncovered the largest illegal fuel operation so far this year.
The first raid was at Tatebane, Hackballscross, Co Louth, three kilometres from the border with Armagh.
Customs officers estimated the plant was capable of laundering 18 million litres of marked diesel a year, costing the Exchequer €9m in unpaid taxes and excise.
An illegal drinking den was found at the same site.
A Customs source said: "This shebeen could have been there for a couple of years, it's hard to tell. There was a range of wine, spirits and beer."
On one wall of the shebeen was H Block and hunger strikes memorabilia as well as a Tricolour.
The second raid was about two kilometres away at Courtbane, where Customs investigators found a plant operating on a smaller scale behind a private house.
Between both locations 51,000 litres of laundered fuel, three tankers, a lorry and a van and other equipment were seized.
The laundries were dismantled and specialist contractors removed 40 tonnes of toxic waste, which is the residue from the laundering process.
It will cost Louth County Council €40,000 to have the waste exported to the continent where it will be disposed of.
All of the 11 diesel laundering plants raided by Customs officers so far this year have been within 30 kilometres of Dundalk.
Combined, they had the ability to launder 86 million litres of product a year, which equates to a Revenue loss of €43m.
Three men, one from Co Louth, were arrested at the Hackballscross plant and taken for questioning to Dundalk garda station.