The detection of a new and more effective coloured marker in fuel is being hailed as key in the discovery and subsequent seizure of more than 4,400 litres of laundered diesel, 3,900 litres of untaxed kerosene, and two oil tankers from a filling station in Co Cavan just before Christmas.
Revenue officers uncovered the illegal fuel at the local station on December 22 last, as part of an ongoing operation into the supply and sale of laundered diesel across Ireland.
Identifying the new marker dye, introduced by the Irish and UK governments last April when it was described as a “game-changer” in the crackdown on illegal fuel smuggling, officers were able to pinpoint that the fuel seized derived from rebated fuels commonly referred to as red diesel or green diesel.
In a statement to The Anglo-Celt, a spokesperson for the Revenue Commissioners said: “This particular detection was assisted by the new and more effective fiscal marker in rebated fuels, which was implemented in Ireland and the UK from April 2015. The new marker is used to mark all gas oil and kerosene to which a reduced rate of mineral oil tax applies. The introduction of the new marker, which is used in addition to existing dyes, provides a significant boost in the fight against illegal fuel laundering in both jurisdictions.”
They added that for operational reasons, and that since the case remains under investigation with a view to future criminal prosecution arising, “no further information” is available at this time.
If convicted on indictment, a court may impose a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years, or a fine not exceeding €126,970, or both.
The recent fuel seizure is the first in the county in almost four years, with the last major detection made following the discovery of an oil laundering plant at Whitegate, near Virginia. Back in 2012, in a joint operation, officers from Revenue’s Customs Service assisted by local gardaí uncovered the plant in a yard which had been adapted to conceal the laundering activity, behind a private residence.
Two vans, bleaching earth, a compressor, a large quantity of laundered fuel and other ancillary equipment were seized during the operation.
Revenue said the plant represented a potential loss to the Exchequer of €5 million per year.
According to the most recent figures available, up to the end of 2014, a total of 35 fuel laundries have been detected across Ireland, 16 of which were in County Monaghan, and two others in County Louth.
Other detections were made in Donegal, Dublin, Laois, Offaly, and Waterford.
In 2012, it cost Cavan County Council €23,458 to ensure that waste generated and abandoned by diesel launderers was disposed of without endangering human health or harm to the environment.
The combined costs to local authorities in counties Monaghan, Louth, Donegal, Offaly, including Co Cavan, of clean-ups of dumped laundered fuel between 2008 and 2014 totals €6,266,408.
In recent years, a raft of legislative measures were added to support Revenue’s work in combating fuel fraud, including the ability to refuse or revoke a mineral oil licence where the trader fails to comply with excise law or maintain adequate management systems.
Between 2012 and 2014, a total of three petrol stations in Cavan were forced to close by Revenue.
By comparison, in neighbouring Border counties there were two each in Co Longford and Co Monaghan, 11 in Co Meath and 19 in Co Louth.