A Louth man has been jailed for 18 months for possession of cat litter and other items which were used in a fuel laundering operation which cost the Revenue an estimated €67,731.
Alan Rees (31) of Tinure, Dunleer pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of prohibited goods used for removing the marker from mineral oil at Ballycoolin Business Park on May 17, 2013.
Judge Martin Nolan said he had to impose a jail sentence as "punishment and deterrence". He said it was "a pretty serious crime which is difficult to detect" and refused a defence request to suspend part of the sentence or to defer its start date.
Rees was found with a filtration system which used cat litter to take the green dye from agricultural diesel so it could be sold on as fuel for cars.
The court heard agricultural diesel, also know as green diesel, is subject to a reduced tax rate, meaning that once the green marker dye is removed it can be sold on for a greater profit to garages and motorists.
A revenue officer also told the court that the removal process causes environmental problems when the waste material is dumped and that the laundered fuel damages the engines of innocent motorists.
Officer Michael McHugo told prosecuting counsel Lorcan Staines BL that the operation was uncovered when a maintenance man was sent to change the locks on the business unit because it had gone into receivership.
There was a strong smell of diesel and the man noticed the unit contained pumps, tanks and cat litter which he knew to be associated with fuel laundering. He called in a customs officer he knew who arrived and examined the premises.
Rees arrived shortly after in a Mercedes Van which contained two 1000 litre tanks. He made some admissions and told officers he arrived every second day to pick up 2000 litres of "washed diesel".
He denied being the person who set up the operation or leased the unit but refused to say who did. The owner of the premises later identified Rees as the man who signed the lease.
Officers found a pallet of cat litter in the unit as well as a large amount of used cat litter.
Defence counsel John Noonan BL said Rees was a self-employed man who engaged in a "desperate act" because of "severe financial hardship". He said his client had co-operated with gardaí and entered an early guilty plea.