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Fuel laundering operation uncovered

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Northern Irish customs officials have discovered a huge-scale fuel laundering operation thought to be the largest in the UK.

The operation is an example of the lengths that some motorists will go to to find illegal ways to save money as they attempt to balance the books and pay for fuel, road tax and car insurance.

Situated near to the Irish border near Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, the diesel laundering plant was capable of producing over 30 million litres of illegal fuel a year.

It is also thought to have cost the taxpayer around £20 million in lost revenue.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers and police discovered the plant as they searched agricultural buildings, and arrested a man in connection with their investigation. He was later bailed pending further inquiries.

Investigators seized 37,000 litres of illicit fuel, six large fuel storage tanks, 1,000 litres of acid, pumps and associated equipment.

They also removed almost 21,000 litres of toxic waste found stored in barrels and in an underground slurry pit.

HMRC assistant director of criminal investigation John Whiting said: "This is fuel fraud on an industrial scale.

"The sheer size of this illegal operation is staggering and far exceeds anything we have ever come across before.

"This activity would have generated massive revenue loss as well as tonnes of toxic waste - it's economic and environmental impact on Northern Ireland would have been considerable."

Laundered fuel is red, or green, diesel which has been filtered through chemicals or acids to remove the government marker.

The chemicals and acids remain in the fuel and damage fuel pumps in diesel cars.

© Press Association 2011