Offices searched as part of fuel smuggling probe

Solicitors’ and accountants’ offices were searched during raids carried out on both sides of the Irish border today in a fresh crackdown on fuel smugglers who cost the UK exchequer millions in lost revenue.

The major co-ordinated operation involved officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Police Service of Northern Ireland on the northern side of the border and the Criminal Assets Bureau, Revenue’s Customs Service and Garda Siochana in the south.

Operation Jutty centred on counties Armagh, Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal. Around 175,000 litres of illicit fuel, four mobile laundering plants, business records, a cash stash of €22,000 and 12 vehicles were seized.

Some 100,000 litres of fuel were seized in the North and the rest in Ireland.

A further 25,000 litres of toxic waste, the residue of the fuel laundering process, were cleared from one of the business premises searched in Co Armagh.

In the Republic, five search warrants were executed at solicitors and accountancy firms and a further nine commercial and domestic premises searched.

North of the border searches were carried out at three commercial premises and two private homes.

John Whiting, assistant director of criminal investigations at HMRC, said: “Serious and organised criminals are increasingly sophisticated, and the measures they use to avoid detection are increasingly complex. They are attacking the tax system in many different ways with the aim of stealing huge amounts of revenue.

“Today’s operation shows that those who think they can use the border as a way to commit crime or hide their criminal proceeds and escape justice, need to think again.”

He added: “Our response through the Cross Border Fuel Fraud Enforcement Group is to ensure we are targeting those individuals and groups doing most harm in our communities.”

He said by making better use of existing tools and working together more effectively, authorities on both sides of the border would disrupt and dismantle organised crime groups and their activities.

“Fuel fraud is not a victimless crime and by working together in partnership with our colleagues in the Republic of Ireland as part of the cross border group we will use the full array of sanctions at our disposal when against those engaged in the illicit supply or commercial misuse of fuel – including vehicle seizure, duty assessments and prosecution in such a way as is necessary to recover lost revenues and prevent fraud recurring.”

Investigations into the suspected fuel fraud were continuing, he said. It is understood there were no immediate arrests.

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