Gardaí investigating the theft of a trailer stumbled upon the most southerly diesel laundering plant in the country, which was capable of annually producing 10m litres and defrauding the State of €5m.
Gardaí in Co Waterford were tipped off about the theft of the trailer and obtained a search warrant which they executed last Friday at an industrial estate at Portlaw.
Details of the operation — which continued over the weekend — only emerged last night after officers from the Revenue’s Customs Service admitted they’d seized “a number of large tanks and ancillary equipment”.
When gardaí arrived at the scene they quickly realised equipment at the facility had all the hallmarks of fuel laundering and contacted customs officers.
According to customs sources the diesel laundering plant wasn’t in use when they arrived, but “had been in use in the recent past” and was “likely to have been operational for quite some time”.
Six gardaí were involved in the initial raid and a similar number of customs officers joined the search.
“This was a fairly sophist-icated operation and those involved used a bleaching earth. This removes the green dye from legitimate diesel,” the customs source said.
Up to now the most southerly fuel laundering operation had been found in Birr, Co Offaly, on Sept 11, 2011.
The vast majority of laundering operations have been found in the Border counties and it’s believed they’re operated by criminals and subversive groups. Such operations defraud the State of millions in revenue every year and some of the fuel is so substandard it has ruined many vehicle owners’ engines.
“In the last two years as part of our strategy to tackle oil fraud, Revenue has shut down over 100 fuel outlets, seized over €2m litres of laundered product and uncovered over 20 oil laundries and ancillary equipment and vehicles,” the customs source added.
A senior Garda source said a man in his 50s came to the site during the operation. He was questioned and is likely to be interviewed again.
Residue sludge from the chemical conversion was found at the site and this will need to be properly disposed of.
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