Customs shut nine plants for fuel laundering
Nine diesel-oil laundering plants have been discovered and shut down since the start of the year, the Sunday Independent has learned.
The new figures emerged as a Meath TD claimed that as many as 20 filling stations in the county are selling counterfeit diesel.
Gardai and customs have shut down six illegal diesel-oil laundering plants in Monaghan and one each in Louth, Meath and Donegal in 2011.
And a major cross-border drive is under way to track down laundered diesel plants and filling stations selling the illegal fuel. However, a spokeswoman for the Revenue Commissioners admitted that tracking down illegal fuel poses serious challenges.
"It can be difficult to establish that diesel oil on sale at forecourts is, in fact, laundered fuel," she said.
It is understood that some operators dealing in laundered fuel mix the illegal product with genuine diesel to disguise its presence at the forecourt.
"Often, the initial indicators may be a damaged fuel pump or other mechanical problems caused by the residue of acids left in the laundered oil," the spokeswoman said.
Fine Gael TD for Meath Ray Butler claimed last week that several local petrol station owners and a major petrol supplier in west Meath had told him there were between 15 and 20 filling stations in the area selling laundered fuel.
He claimed that laundered fuel was costing the State up to €300m a year in lost taxes.
A multi-agency Cross Border Fuel Fraud Enforcement Group (CBFFEG) was established in 2008 specifically to deal with the illicit trade in mineral oil in the border area.
In a joint operation last month 48,350 litres of laundered fuel were seized from five filling stations in five different counties.
As part of the same operation a significant oil laundering plant with the potential to launder an estimated 18 million litres of fuel a year with a potential loss to the Exchequer of €9m per annum, was uncovered in Co Monaghan and four arrests were made.
That investigation is continuing.
In 2010 there were 1,192 detections in individual vehicles of the illicit use of mineral oil, resulting in the seizure of 167 vehicles. There were 222 criminal convictions for such offences.
Also in 2010, nine retailers were found dealing in laundered oil, and eight haulage companies were detected using laundered oil.