Gardai quiz 'ringleader' of diesel laundering operation
FOUR men, including the alleged ringleader of a gang, were arrested by gardai yesterday in a cross-border operation into diesel laundering in eight counties.
Gardai and Customs found one of the biggest laundering plants uncovered so far in the State, when they raided a premises half-a-kilometre from the Border in Co Monaghan.
Officers also raided garages in Rathfarnham in south county Dublin; Athlone, Co Westmeath; Birr, Co Offaly; Loughrea, Co Galway and Roscommon.
Among those held for questioning was a man living in Hackballscross, Co Louth, who is alleged to be the main player in the criminal gang behind the diesel laundering.
The PSNI and northern Customs also raided five premises in counties Armagh and Tyrone.
The operation was led by the Garda Organised Crime Unit, backed up by the Emergency Response Unit and the Criminal Assets Bureau.
Armed officers were on stand-by as detectives and customs officers stormed into the plant at Corrygarry, Castleblayney and seized 95,000 litres of the processed fuel.
The plant had the capacity to launder an estimated 18 million litres of fuel a year with a potential loss to the Exchequer of €9m annually. Laundering was under way when the raid took place.
Customs officers detained three filled tankers, two transit vans, a box lorry, a 40-foot tanker and an articulated lorry with a combined value of €55,000.
Officers also seized 4,700 litres of fuel in Roscommon; 6,150 in Loughrea; 17,000 in Birr; 11,500 in Athlone and 9,000 litres of laundered fuel in Rathfarnham. Documentation was taken from the garages by the Criminal Assets Bureau.
A senior garda officer said motorists purchasing the laundered fuel should remember that the criminals running such operations were making up to 70c a litre profit, with the bulk of that money being channelled into organised crime.
Sean Kelleher, who is in charge of customs enforcement along the Border, warned the criminals: "There will be further operations. The operation today is designed not only to cut off the supply of illegal diesel but is also targeted at filling stations where this product is sold."
Officers also seized €20,000 cash in the Republic and £30,000 (€34,000) in Northern Ireland.