Fuel fraudsters given suspended sentences
Three men linked to a sophisticated diesel laundering plant in County Armagh, which had purpose-built underground storage to hide illegal fuel, have been sentenced after an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
HMRC officers began investigating Padraigh Doran (33), Martin Fitzpatrick (35) and Micheail Kennon (25) after a large laundering plant was discovered at Kilnasaggart Road in the Jonesborough area in January 2013.
All three were given 18 month sentences that were suspended for three years when they appeared before Newry Crown Court last week. The trio had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing in January to the fraudulent evasion of excise duty.
Doran is a mechanic from Macullagh Road, Newtownhamilton; Fitzpatrick is a self-employed lorry driver from Main Street, Newry, and Kennon is an unemployed farmer, from Newtown Road, Belleeks.
The underground storage facility had the capacity to hold more than 100,000 litres of laundered fuel, with an agricultural shed built over the top in an attempt to disguise the illegal activity. The set-up was capable of producing 22 million litres of illicit fuel a year, evading £19.6m in lost duty and taxes.
HMRC officers seized 39,000 litres of laundered fuel, two fuel tankers, 62 bags of bleaching earth - used to launder the diesel - and 18,000 litres of toxic waste from the site. Doran was also sentenced for a separate fuel fraud offence after he was caught driving a van carrying 2,400 litres of laundered fuel in November 2014.
A spokesperson for HMRC said: 'Diesel laundering waste is often dumped indiscriminately in the countryside, or next to the road, with no care for the pollution it can cause to land or waterways. Typically the waste is dumped in agricultural areas or forests, chosen for their remoteness to avoid detection.
'A new fuel marker, Accutrace, was introduced into UK fuel supplies on 1 April 2015. The new marker is significantly more resistant to laundering and in the interim no evidence has been found by HMRC or other law enforcement agencies that successful laundering of Accutrace has occurred'.