Two held as major diesel laundries are raided


AN INVESTIGATION by Revenue’s Customs Service has led to raids on two linked illegal diesel laundries that together boasted one of the largest capacities of any illegal laundry operation yet found in the State.

The plants were large enough to process 20 million litres of laundered fuel a year, with a potential loss to the exchequer of up to €10 million.

A large amount of machinery used in the laundering process was seized at the two sites in Monaghan and Louth, as well as a number of vehicles.

An examination of two large lorries found during the raids has revealed both were fitted with concealed tanks that would allow them to transport fuel while maintaining the appearance of grain lorries.

The raids yesterday followed a lengthy surveillance-led operation by Revenue, backed during the searches by armed members of the Garda’s Regional Support Unit and local uniformed gardaí.

At the Co Monaghan site, the Customs-Garda team moved in on a commercial premises at Aghafad, Killanny, Carrickmacross, and found an operation with a capacity to launder 15 million litres of fuel per annum.

The plant was in operation at the time and some 40,000 litres of diesel was found, from which dye markers had already been laundered and which was ready for sale at the price of regular fuel.

Also found were four filters and bleaching agent for washing the fuel, as well as a Mercedes car and lorry with a large concealed tank. On the site was also discovered thousands of litres of toxic sludge, which is the byproduct of the laundering process. It is often found dumped around the Border area and is expensive for local authorities to expose of.

Two men were found at the location. Aged 54 and 47 years and both from Co Louth, they were arrested and were still being questioned by gardaí last night at Carrickmacross Garda station.

At the second site in Muff, Co Louth, a much smaller laundry was found that was capable of washing about five million litres of fuel per year. Bleaching agent was found along with a quantity of oil, two vans and a lorry with a concealed tank.

The suspects and both sites had been under surveillance by Revenue for some time.

The two latest finds bring to six the number of laundries found this year in Monaghan, Cavan and Louth.

The problem of laundered fuel has begun to increase again as the recession and the rising price of fuel has increased the demand for cheaper illegal diesel.

In 2009 no laundries were found. However, nine were found last year and six have been discovered to date this year.

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, then “wash” or “launder” the fuel to remove the dye. It is then sold at about €1.40 a litre, having been bought for 70c.