Eight men have been arrested and a large amount of toxic waste removed, as part of an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) into a suspected £3 million fuel laundering fraud.
Around 150 officers from HMRC carried out simultaneous searches of 20 business and residential addresses in the Hayes, Romford, Southend, Thurrock, Tonbridge, Southend and Watford areas yesterday morning (Wednesday 28 June) and seized equipment believed to be a diesel laundering plant.
The laundering plant, with the potential to produce an estimated 7 million litres of illicit fuel a year evading £3 million in revenue, was dismantled and around 100,000 litres of suspected laundered red, agricultural diesel seized along with a range of commercial and private vehicles as well as more specialised equipment used in the laundering process.
John Cooper, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:
“Laundering fuel is a serious crime, which HMRC is determined to tackle. Around £100 million in unpaid duty and taxes is lost each year to fuel fraud in the UK, money that should be helping fund public services. We are determined to take that profit away.
“The toxic waste from fuel laundering poses a real threat to the environment and costs thousands of pounds to dispose of safely. Taxpayers are not only missing out on the stolen tax, but we also have to fund the substantial clean up and disposal costs.
“We urge anyone with information about the transport, storage or sale of suspected illicit fuel to contact our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”
The eight men arrested were interviewed by HMRC and have been released under investigation. Inquiries into the suspected fraud are ongoing.
1.Details of the arrests:
- Three men, aged 26, 34 and 37, from County Armagh, Northern Ireland were arrested.
- A man, aged 56, from Watford was arrested
- A man, aged 53, from Southend was arrested
- A man, aged 52, from Romford was arrested
- Two men, aged 35 and 46, from Hayes were arrested
2.Details of the searches:
- Three residential and four businesses were searched in the Watford area
- Two residential premises were searched in the Hayes area
- A residential property and business premises was searched in the Southend area.
- One residential premises was searched in the Tonbridge area.
- A residential property was searched in Romford.
- A commercial premises was searched in London.
- Seven business premises were searched in the Grays and Thurrock areas.
3.The laundering of red diesel - a low-tax fuel primarily for agricultural use - has historically involved its filtration through chemicals or acids to remove the Government markers, and it is then sold on as road fuel to unsuspecting motorists.
4.Diesel laundering waste is often dumped indiscriminately in the countryside, or next to the road, with no care for the pollution it can cause to land or waterways. Typically the waste is dumped in agricultural areas or forests, chosen for their remoteness to avoid detection.
5.A new fuel marker, Accutrace, was introduced into UK fuel supplies on 1 April 2015. The new marker is significantly more resistant to laundering and in the interim no evidence has been found by HMRC or other law enforcement agencies that successful laundering of Accutrace has occurred.
6.Laundered fuel is red (or green) diesel, which has been filtered through chemicals or acids in an attempt to remove the Government markers.
7.Although red diesel is predominantly targeted, launderers may also seek to remove the marker from other rebated fuels - especially kerosene - primarily used for heating oil.
8.Figures for 2013-14 estimate that the revenue loss from illicit use of fuel has now fallen to around £50 million in Great Britain.
9.Follow HMRC’s Press Office on Twitter @HMRCpressoffice
10.Photographs are available at HMRC’s Flickr channel: www.flickr.com/hmrcgovuk
11.Anyone with information about people or businesses involved in tax fraud can contact HMRC on our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887887 or at www.hmrc.gov.uk/reportingfraud/online.htm.
Issued by HM Revenue & Customs Press Office
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is the UK’s tax authority.
HMRC is responsible for making sure that the money is available to fund the UK’s public services and for helping families and individuals with targeted financial support.