A TANKER that had been seized by Revenue officials was stolen back by thieves from an Army barracks yesterday.
A garda and Army investigation is under way today after raiders broke into the base in Dundalk and stole the fuel tanker, which had been seized by customs officers just four days earlier.
The gang rammed the locked gates of Aiken barracks just after 2am yesterday morning and escaped with the tanker, which was laden with €30,000 worth of washed diesel.
The rigid tanker was one of six vehicles seized by customs last Wednesday in a search of two premises in Co Monaghan.
Customs officers raided a diesel laundering plant at Drumacon capable of laundering 15 million litres of fuel a year; which equates to a loss to the exchequer of €8m a year.
But the tanker that was stolen from Aiken barracks had been seized by customs officers at commercial premises at Longfield, co Monaghan, and contained 20,000 litres of fuel.
After the raid on the diesel laundering plant the seized tanker was stored at Aiken barracks. However, at some stage in the early morning, somebody managed to get into the barracks yard without being detected.
They then started the fuel tanker and drove to the entrance, where they smashed through the gate and drove off.
Soldiers who were on duty at the entrance had no advance warning before the tanker was driven at high speed through the gates at 2.10am.
The Army press office confirmed that no military personnel were injured in the incident, which the defence forces are now investigating.
A spokesperson confirmed that a vehicle, which had been seized by customs and parked in Aiken military barracks, was "allegedly stolen in the early hours of Sunday." A garda spokesman said they were also investigating the circumstances of the theft, while the Revenue Commissioners would only confirm they had reported it to the gardai.
Louth deputy Peter Fitzpatrick (FG) said the daring theft of the seized truck was a sign that "somebody was getting hurt in the pocket" in the ongoing clampdown on diesel laundering along the border.
Mr Fitzpatrick, a former member of the defence forces, saw the damage caused to the cast iron gates and barrier at the entrance to the base.
"It is very alarming that somebody is willing to go into an army barracks, where people are armed, and would have the cheek to ram the gate.
"They are thugs, and diesel laundering is costing us hundreds of millions of euro a year," he said.
Deputy Fitzpatrick said he will talk to the Minister for Defence, Alan Shatter, about the incident, and if extra resources are need to tighten security along the border "we will give them".
He said the clampdown by the gardai, PSNI and customs officers on both sides of the border is working.