Wednesday 21 February 2018

Country awash with bogus fuel but State carried out just 24 tanker tests

Michelle Mulherin
Michelle Mulherin
Jim Cusack

Jim Cusack

Customs officers tested just 24 fuel lorries for bogus fuel last year - despite Provo-run laundering and smuggling rackets costing the State up to a quarter of a billion Euros in lost taxes a year.

The Revenue Commissioner figures for on-the-spot testing of fuel tankers emerged in a response to a Parliamentary Question from Fine Gael TD Michelle Mulherin.

Motorists in Deputy Mulherin's Mayo constituency were hit hard last year by the latest racket of 'stretching' petrol with kerosene which damages engines, and yesterday she called on the Revenue Commissioners to "step up their game" against the racketeers who are reaping in tens of millions in profits each year.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan revealed in a written response that Revenue tested only 24 tankers in 2014, at a time when parts of the country was awash with illicit and contaminated fuel.

Despite the phenomenon, Mr Noonan gave details which show that despite millions of gallons of diesel being laundered by the south Armagh IRA, the numbers of transport tankers being tested by customs officers for Revenue has actually been falling each year.

The figures show that 92 lorries were tested in 2011; 76 in 2012; 61 in 2013; and only 24 last year.

Customs sources have told the Sunday Independent that cuts to the service have meant that, in all, there are only about 200 officers on customs duties at any given time and they have to cover all ports and airports as well as contending with the fuel and tobacco smuggling.

Deputy Mulherin said: "With 24 samples taken from fuel tankers over the 26 counties for the entire year of 2014 it is clear to see how the problem of petrol stretching would arise. This was at the height of the petrol stretching problem in Mayo, other parts of the west, the midlands and the border counties, yet the number of samples taken does not even amount to one per county for the year.

"The figures show a trend that there has been a marked decline in Revenue taking fuel samples since 2011 and this was bound to mean that the possibility of finding contaminated fuel before it made its way to the filling station forecourts has been considerably reduced. It clearly shows there is no real monitoring of fuel going on. People are paying the price because engines were written off. The Minister should look again to see how victims could be compensated."

"A serious question which needs to be answered is what is the problem with Revenue Commissioners and why are they not taking more samples and carrying out random checks on tankers? This would allow contaminated fuel to be intercepted before it goes into the fuel supply chain."

The Deputy called for the setting up of mobile laboratories to be dispatched to the estimated 200 filling stations which gardai and customs believe the Provisional IRA owns or controls and supplies with bogus fuel.

Last week Louth Co Council had to deal with yet another bulk dumping of the toxic waste with 35,000 litres in 1,000-litre cubes left in a lorry parked by the MI motorway near the Border at Ravensdale last Tuesday morning.

Sunday Independent

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