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New Border 'task force' to combat diesel smugglers


TOXIC: Reporter Jim Cusack with ‘cubes’ of waste from fuel laundering

TOXIC: Reporter Jim Cusack with ‘cubes’ of waste from fuel laundering

TOXIC: Reporter Jim Cusack with ‘cubes’ of waste from fuel laundering

Fianna Fail will this week propose new legislation in the Dail to set up the first ever cross-Border task force to tackle the "environmental terrorism" of Provo fuel launderers.

The Bill will be introduced on Wednesday by Cavan-Monaghan TD Brendan Smyth following recommendations last month by the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly after it found "alarming" evidence of the massive trade in illicit fuel in south Armagh.

It also comes in the wake of a series of damning revelations in this newspaper about the activities of cross-border diesel smugglers.

And it follows the publication of a report last week that revealed 61 rivers in Northern Ireland, 37 of them in the south Armagh area, have been polluted by the cancer and foetal abnormality-causing chemicals linked to the fuel-laundering industry. The figures were released by the Northern Ireland Department of Environment as a result of probing by Ulster Unionist MLA Ross Hussy.

Mr Hussey dubbed the fuel launderers who are raking in millions every year while poisoning water supplies to their own communities as "money-grabbing cowards".

In a statement to the Sunday Independent, Mr Hussy said: "The persons responsible for the contamination and possible release of cancer-inducing chemicals have absolutely no regard for anyone other than themselves and because of the relative isolation of the diesel laundering plants they seem to escape justice.

"The losses in revenue to HMRC or the Irish Revenue Commissioners is nothing when compared to the possible loss of human life. The questions I have asked and will continue to ask are there as I am concerned for the possible future effects of these poisons.

"I live in West Tyrone where we are fairly fortunate that these incidents are not common place but the clearly identified border regions where these events are quite commonplace indicate the people responsible for these acts of fuel fraud and environmental terrorism are more than likely republican sympathisers and could even be tied in with firmer paramilitary actions.

"Sinn Fein do not seem to be worried about these activities, but I as a Unionist, am concerned yes about the fraud against the state through tax evasion, but also to the threat to my fellow Irish men, women and children by the poisons these money-grabbing cowards are prepared to dump anywhere and everywhere. We must act as one to see these individuals behind bars and I don't mind if that jail is north our south of the border."

The new Fianna Fail bill is expected to follow the recommendations of the British-Irish Assembly that both governments set up Cross-Border Enforcement Groups and "establish a permanent, full-time task force" dedicated to "eliminate the activities" of the republican fuel smugglers.

The Assembly also recommended both governments "introduce more serious penalties, including more lengthy custodial sentences" for the illicit trade "in order to mark the island of Ireland as a difficult place for criminal gangs to operate".

The proposed cross-Border agency would entail the secondment of staff from environmental agencies and the criminal assets seizure squads of the PSNI and Garda.

It is the first time that any such dedicated cross-Border agency has been proposed and will be a major leap for both governments. Until now the only cross-Border agencies have been in uncontroversial areas such as education and tourism.

In response to a Dail question from Deputy Smyth last week Environment Minister Alan Kelly said the issue will be discussed at the next inter-governmental meeting in May. Deputy Smith and other TDs have called for quicker action by both governments.

Despite repeated claims from both sides about the 'excellence' of police co-operation, sources have told the Sunday Independent that ordinary policing is virtually non-existent in parts of the Border, allowing the massive fuel scams and the dumping of lethal pollution to continue.

According to sources there are only a couple of patrol vehicles available on most nights on either side of the Border with south Armagh. The dumping of toxic waste, including directly into feeder streams to the areas main drinking water system, is going on unabated.

Last Thursday the PSNI and NI Environmental Agency raided one of the laundering plants only a couple of hundred yards from the main pumping plant that extracts water from the Lough Ross reservoir for around 8,000 people in the Crossmaglen area.

On the same day the Sunday Independent came across three more 1,000-litre 'cubes' of the concentrated toxic waste dumped on the side of Captain's Road near Forkhill in south Armagh. Local people said the "cubes" were dumped overnight last Monday/Tuesday. Poisonous waste was leaking out of the damaged cubes onto the road.

Sunday Independent