Fuel-laundering gangs extend their reach into Europe
MILLIONAIRE bosses of illegal fuel-laundering gangs are now extending their networks overseas to maximise their profits.
The gangsters, based in south Armagh, Louth, Cavan and Monaghan, are sending over units of launderers, following in the footsteps of Provisional IRA terrorist teams, who were deployed abroad in the '70s, '80s and '90s.
But rather than political chaos, their aim is to make a financial killing through avoiding taxes and duties.
And they are using third-level graduates to build up their expertise to stay one step ahead of state agencies.
Intelligence gathered by security agencies indicates that the Irish gangs are in the process of setting up major laundering rackets in the UK, Spain and the Czech Republic.
"These guys dominate the cross-Border fuel-laundering trade here and although they operate as separate gangs, there is a lot of evidence highlighting the connections between them," one security source said.
A large portion of the cash they make is being invested in other money-spinning rackets, including cigarette smuggling.
"It makes sense for them to spread their activities to the UK and mainland Europe because of the huge markets that are available to them over there," the source added.
About a dozen gangs hold control over the trade here and anybody allowed to become a participant in the racket must hand over a slice of the profits.
The gangs are updating their chemical skills by employing graduates, including some members of their own families, to advise them on new technological advances.
Sean Kelleher, Customs Manager in the Border region, admitted last night that it was becoming more difficult for their officers to detect laundered fuel.
The gangs have replaced acid to wash the green diesel with simple but highly effective bleaching agents, such as silica dioxide, which is a legitimate product and can be used to clean cooking oil.
Revenue teams have uncovered five oil laundries so far in 2012 -- in Hackballscross, Co Louth, last January; Glasmullagh, Emyvale, Co Monaghan, and Virginia, Co Cavan, in March; and two at Rathmore, Kilkerley, Co Louth, last month.
The five operations had the potential to launder about 27 million litres of fuel a year, representing a potential loss to the Exchequer of around €13.5m.