Revenue chairman Niall Cody revealed that a crackdown by tax authorities, gardaí and Government on the issue had defeated the practice in the Republic and was saving the State up to €200m a year.
Speaking at a meeting of the public accounts committee, he said this country has taken a serious stand against the practice but the problem still persists in Northern Ireland and Britain.
Warning that British authorities wrongly believe the issue only affects Northern Ireland and is not apparent in England, Scotland or Wales, the Revenue chairman said he is aware of customs officials uncovering large quantities of laundered petrol and diesel in tankers on public ferries which are officially carrying other items. Saying the situation is extremely dangerous, Mr Cody said it would be lethal if anything went wrong.
The revelation was made in response to questions from Fine Gael TD and PAC member Alan Farrell as Mr Cody outlined the impact of the combined actions by the Government to end the lucrative illegal scandal in this country.
In a series of statements to the PAC, Mr Cody said the recent crackdown on fuel smugglers on this side of the border — widely believed to include former members of the Provisional IRA, among others — has saved the State up to €200m a year since 2014. Saying the move has virtually wiped out and defeated the situation in the Republic, he said the practice of ‘washed diesel’ —which dilutes the product to increase a gang’s net income — has also been stopped due to underground operations.
“The tax loss associated with fuel laundering is not quantifiable but there’s no doubt that it was very significant,” he said.
Last month, the comptroller and auditor general said a survey of filling stations gave “authoritative evidence” that the multi-million euro trade is close to being put out of business.
Mr Cody said as a result criminals involved in fuel laundering have transferred into other black market operations including tobacco, drink and designer fuel — the latter sees additives mixed with petrol and diesel.
“There’s no doubt that the people who were involved in organised excise fraud, they have not stopped doing something,” he said.