Revenue staff questioned over illegal fuel find
Two Revenue officials are to be interviewed about an oil laundry plant discovered close to their home by Customs officers.
A major investigation was under way last night by Customs and gardai after the find.
The officials do not work in the Customs section of the Revenue.
The plant was one of two oil laundries seized. They had the capacity to produce a combined 22 million litres of fuel a year.
This represents a potential loss to the exchequer of €11m a year.
The finds were made within a 12 -hour period and resulted from an intelligence gathering and surveillance operation carried out by Revenue officers in the Border counties.
The operation is part of a widespread crackdown on laundered fuel that involves cross-Border co-operation with Northern agencies in uncovering the identity of the main figures in the lucrative racket.
In the initial find, Customs officers were backed up by armed members of the Garda Regional Support Unit and personnel from Louth as they raided a major oil laundry using bleaching agent at Tatebane, Hackballscross, near Dundalk, Co Louth.
Shortly after midnight, officers uncovered the plant, which was capable of processing 18 million litres of fuel a year, with a potential exchequer loss of €9m.
They seized 30,000 litres of illicit fuel, 53 bags of bleaching earth, one tanker and three lorries, one of which contained a concealed tank for the transportation of laundered fuel.
Other equipment for the bleaching earth laundry was dismantled and removed while officers also took away an old-style laundry, in which cat litter is used in the laundering process.
Officers also discovered 36 tonnes of toxic waste and a "shebeen", a bar where illicit drink was sold without a licence, containing spirits on which Irish duty had not been paid.
Gardai arrested three men and two have been charged. The third man has been questioned.
In a separate operation, less than 12 hours later, Customs officers, again backed up by gardai, found another oil laundry at Courtbane, Dundalk.
They also seized 21,000 litres of illicit fuel, a quantity of oil bleaching earth, a tanker, a van and equipment from a shed located at the rear of a private house.
Four tonnes of toxic waste were also found at the plant.
A Revenue spokeswoman said last night that motorists and the public should be aware of the risks posed to their vehicles by using laundered fuel.
The racket also took much needed funds from the Exchequer and hurt legitimate trade.
Follow-up inquiries were under way last night. It is expected that a file will be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions, who will determine if criminal charges should be brought against any of the suspects.