Fuel laundering gang blitzed
Tuesday, 19 March 2013
MORE than 300 officers from the Gardai, PSNI, Revenue and Customs and the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) were involved in over 20 cross border raids last week on sites suspected to be linked to a money and fuel laundering gang.
The PSNI and Revenue and Customs raided three business and residential buildings in the Crossmaglen area of south Armagh on Wednesday morning while Garda and CAB officers simultaneously raided 19 facilities in counties Louth, Monaghan, Dublin, Kildare, Waterford, Offaly, Roscommon, Westmeath, Meath and Tipperary.
No arrests were made on either side of the border but in the north officials seized more than 35,000 litres of fuel while Gardai confirmed they seized large amounts of cash, computers, documents and bank statements.
A diesel laundering plant capable of producing 10 million litres of illegal fuel each year, amounting to a tax loss of €5.5m, was also dismantled in Castleblayney, county Monaghan.
A number of bank accounts were also frozen.
A Gardai spokesman said the raids were related to organised crime.
“The current focus of this investigation is to search for and seize evidence relating to the criminal activity and the assets suspected of deriving from same of the organised crime group," a spokesman said.
“Investigations conducted by CAB to date have identified significant funds being generated and laundered from the sale of laundered diesel and stretched petrol.
“The profits generated from this illegal activity are significant as is the loss to the Irish Exchequer.
“This illegal activity has knock on effects on legitimate businesses as well as on unsuspecting customers who have very often experienced damage to the fuel system of their vehicles from laundered diesel or poor return per litre of petrol."
He also explained that arrests were not the focus of the operations.
“The objectives of the operation are to seize evidence of assets deriving from oil fraud and money laundering, seize and dismantle illegal oil operations, seize cash or other assets including vehicles used in the criminal activity and to freeze bank accounts," he said.
Politicians on both sides of the border have also welcomed the operations.
SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley welcomed the co-operation between the PSNI and Gardai.
“Hardly a week goes by without local residents discovering pods of the horrible waste generated from fuel laundering being dumped in some of our local beauty spots," he said.
“The people of south Armagh are fed up with their area being used as some form of dumping ground.
“What's more, they are fed up with their area being tarnished with this type of activity."
Meanwhile, Louth TD and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams also praised the operation.
“Last Friday Sinn Féin councillors Edel Corrigan, Jim Loughran and I met senior Garda for North Louth in Dundalk," he said.
“The meeting discussed a range of matters including fuel laundering by criminal gangs in the north Louth area.
“We had also met the PSNI several months ago and raised the same issue with them.
“Fuel laundering costs both states tens of millions each year but it also leaves behind a toxic sludge which presents a significant environmental threat to people living in the area.
“While I welcome today's action by the Garda, PSNI and Revenue and Customs bodies there is a widespread public concern, which I share, at the lack of convictions that have occurred arising from the discovery of fuel laundering plants in the past."
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