Northern Ireland

UK's biggest fuel laundering plant found in Crossmaglen

The UK's largest ever fuel laundering plant has been dismantled by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) in Northern Ireland.

A customs spokesperson said the "industrial scale plant" was capable of producing over 30m litres of illicit fuel a year, the equivalent of £20m in lost revenue.

The plant was discovered in a raid in Crossmaglen, County Armagh on Tuesday.

A man arrested in connection with the find has been released on bail pending further enquiries.

HMRC officers, accompanied by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), seized six storage tanks, 37,000 litres of illicit fuel, 1,000 litres of acid, pumps and associated equipment.

Almost 21,000 litres of toxic waste, stored in barrels and in an underground slurry pit, were also removed from the site.

Clare Merrills from Revenue and Customs said the plant was three times larger than any other plant found in the UK.

"This particular site was capable of producing enough fuel to take a family saloon car to the moon and back over 40 times a year," she said.

"This was a huge plant that we have closed down, but it's just one of a number we have found in recent months."

HMRC Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation, John Whiting said it was fuel fraud on an industrial scale.

"The sheer size of this illegal operation is staggering and far exceeds anything we have ever come across before," he said.

"This activity would have generated massive revenue loss as well as tonnes of toxic waste - its economic and environmental impact on Northern Ireland would have been considerable.

"The location of this illegal operation would suggest that the fuel was destined for both sides of the border, resulting in losses to both the UK and Republic of Ireland exchequers.

"This operation shows the success of multi agency co-operation in tackling fuel fraud and why we will continue to work with our partners in the fight against organised crime."

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