Gang burns out Customs truck after diesel raid
A CUSTOMS officer transporting confiscated diesel-laundering equipment had his truck hijacked and set on fire after accidentally crossing the Border into Northern Ireland.
A Revenue Commissioners spokesman last night condemned the attack, and said the officer had been badly shaken by the ordeal.
On Thursday, Customs officers had raided the biggest diesel-laundering operation to be found in Ireland in years.
The operation, located outside Castleblayney, Co Monaghan -- just a short distance from the Border -- had the capacity to process 20 million litres of fuel a year.
Its operators were estimated to be making a profit of €10m annually.
Customs sources say there was intimidation of staff as they prepared to leave the site on Thursday evening with a number of other vehicles driving in front of Customs officers.
This contributed to the Customs truck straying a short distance across the Border.
The driver attempted to do a U-turn but his path was blocked, the truck was rammed by a tractor and he was surrounded by four cars.
A number of men, who were not masked, got out of the cars wielding petrol cans. The Customs officer ran from the vehicle and the truck was set on fire.
The PSNI said it was investigating a hi-jacking in the Crossmaglen area.
"This was an outrage and his life was in danger," a colleague of the officer who was driving the truck said.
Meanwhile, it will be next week at the earliest before it is known whether groundwater has been contaminated by the toxic residue from the plant.
There are also concerns the contamination could have reached a public water supply.
A number of trenches and ditches had been dug beside the laundering plant and the residue from the tanks being used to wash the diesel in was being drained into them.
"Our investigations are ongoing," Kieran Duffy of Monaghan County Council said.
"Staff took samples from various locations on the site and they have been sent for analysis. It will be next week before we get the results."
There were concerns the contaminants had reached part of the water supply for south Armagh but Mr Duffy yesterday said it was not thought the primary contamination was of groundwater in the vicinity.