Two mobile diesel laundries discovered in Co Louth
Revenue officials and armed gardaí uncover operations capable of costing exchequer €8m a year
Revenue officials were backed by armed gardaí from the Regional Support Unit and local officers in the simultaneous diesel laundry operations, in which facilities with the capacity to cause a potential loss of €8 million a year to the exchequer were discovered.
Revenue’s Customs officers and gardai have uncovered one of the largest illegal fuel laundering plants ever found in the State.
The laundering apparatus was found in mobile units that could be driven around to facilitate constant changes of location to help avoid detection.
The search team, which was backed by armed members of the Regional Support Unit and local gardai, moved in on two sites in Co Louth yesterday and seized 14 vehicles as part of the operation.
The sites were at an industrial unit and a linked residential address and yard in Ravensdale Park, Dundalk, Co Louth. The illegal facility had the capacity to launder around 15 million litres of fuel per annum with a potential loss to the exchequer of up to €8 million per annum in taxes and duties foregone.
At the first site searched yesterday morning the facility was laundering fuel when the surprise raid occurred. The apparatus through which the fuel was being run to wash the marker from it was concealed in a curtain-sided trailer which was in working order and could have been driven away at short notice at any time.
It was found at the commercial premises along with four lorries, one of which had been fitted with hidden tanks to transport fuel, three oil tankers, 28,000 litres of fuel and other laundering equipment.
Also found was three tonnes of toxic sludge, which is by-product of the laundering process and must be disposed of by the local authority.
In the related search at the residential property and yard, Revenue’s officials found a slurry tank adapted to be used as a mobile laundry. Some 100 bags of bleaching earth, through which fuel passes to be washed, was also found as well as 6,000 litres of fuel, three cars, two 4X4 vehicles and a van.
Gardai believe facilities were being operated by a local criminal gang though the involvement of republican elements has not been ruled out. These illegal plants are known as “laundries” because they effectively “wash” fuel.
Diesel intended for use in the agricultural sector is marked with a green dye in the Republic and a red dye in the North. Once dyed it is subject to lower taxes than those for motor fuel. This is designed as a fuel subsidy for farmers and other owners of heavy commercial vehicles.
Those operating the illegal laundering plants source agricultural diesel, usually by the tanker-load. They then “wash” or “launder” the fuel to remove the dye. This is achieved by pumping it through a tank with bleaching chemicals or more solid substances such as cat litter inside.
It is then sold at about €1.40 per litre, having been bought for 70c. The fuel is sometimes bought by motorists from illegal mini pumps beside laundries or it is sold on garage forecourts to unsuspecting drivers.