CUSTOMS officials have closed down a fuel laundering plant capable of producing five million litres of diesel a year.
Pumps, tanks and other equipment were removed from the site in Crossmaglen after police and customs raided the farm on Thursday night, June 27.
The illegal operation had the potential to evade the UK Treasury of more than £3 million in tax and duty.
More than 14 tonnes of toxic waste were also removed from farm buildings where the plant was operating.
Pat Curtis, HMRC national oils co-ordinator, said: “Every illegal laundering operation typically generates tonnes of toxic waste, which involves significant environmental and safety issues.
“As taxpayers and local ratepayers, not only are we missing out on the stolen tax going into the pockets of the criminals, we are also paying the substantial clean-up and disposal costs. Buying illicit fuel funds crime and supports and encourages these dangerous activities within our communities. The only winners are the criminals.”
HMRC said a forensic investigation was continuing. Laundered fuel is red (or green) diesel, which has been filtered through chemicals or acids to remove the government marker. The chemicals and acids cause damage to fuel pumps in diesel cars.
Last year HMRC dismantled 22 illegal fuel-laundering plants and seized more than 820,000 litres of illicit fuel worth an estimated £480,000 in evaded revenue.
The latest figures estimate that uncollected revenue from laundered and smuggled diesel in Northern Ireland was about £160 million in 2010/11 – 25% of the market share – and an increase on the £70 million for the previous year. No one has been jailed for fuel laundering in Northern Ireland in the past