06 February 2006

Customs raid illegal fuel plants


The plant could launder 80,000 litres of fuel a week

Three fuel laundering plants have been uncovered in south Armagh, HM Revenue and Customs has said.

Customs officers and police visited three rural locations in the Cullyhanna area on Friday and dismantled two fuel laundering plants in farm buildings.

They also dealt with a third laundering plant which was mobile.

The illegal operations had the combined capacity to produce 80,000 litres of laundered fuel per week. No arrests were made and enquiries are continuing.

They recovered 30,000 litres of contaminated fuel and seized a fuel tanker, pumps and filtration and storage equipment.

In addition 5,000 litres of sulphuric acid and 7,000 litres of toxic contaminated sludge, the hazardous chemical residue of the laundering process, were cleared from the sites.

Toxic sludge was found on the lorry

HMRC Head of Detection Northern Ireland, Colin McAllister said the estimated annual loss in revenue of £2,250,000 should have been "going to our schools and hospitals, not into the pockets of a few individuals".

"People need to be aware of the potential environmental damage that can be caused by the indiscriminate dumping in our countryside of the waste products from the laundering process," he said.

"They need to consider what happens to the waste by product and the damage caused by contamination to arable land and our water and rivers."

He revealed that a lorry carrying about 5,000 litres of hazardous laundering waste was abandoned at the roadside in County Armagh last week.

"This waste is a danger for the local community and the environment, and is difficult and expensive to dispose of safely," he said.

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