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Gang members have 25 bank accounts frozen

A massive operation examining the activities of a criminal gang got underway today.

A customs officer looks at containers of sludge at a fuel laundering plant unearthed in Knightstown, Co Meath, following a raid by Customs and Garda officers in 2011.
A customs officer looks at containers of sludge at a fuel laundering plant unearthed in Knightstown, Co Meath, following a raid by Customs and Garda officers in 2011.
Image: Niall Carson/PA Archive/Press Association Images

THE CRIMINAL ASSETS Bureau has frozen more than 25 bank accounts suspected to be linked to criminal activities, including the laundering of fuel.

As part of a national operation against the illegal fuel trade, launched today, Gardaí and customs officials have seized large quantities of cash and fuel.

A total of 19 raids were carried out as part of a multi-agency investigation into the profits generated from the illegal activities of a known organised criminal group in Louth.

Properties, including seven dwellings, 10 businesses and two warehouses, were searched in Louth, Monaghan, Dublin, Kildare, Waterford, Offaly, Roscommon, Westmeath, Meath and Tipperary. Two locations turned up large quantities of cash, as well as business records and computers. The items have all been seized and will be subject to forensic examination.

A “significant laundry” with a capability of putting out several hundreds of thousands of litres of diesel was discovered. According to the Garda Press Office, it would have resulted in a potential output of 10 million litres per year at a loss of €5.5 million to the exchequer.

On the same site, more than 40,000 litres of what is believed to be laundered fuel was found on the site. More than 150 bags of bleaching earth and a 40-foot container were seized.

Illegal fuel laundering has become a growing problem in recent years as diesel designated for agricultural or industrial purposes is privy to lower tax and duty rates. It is dyed green as a marker to differentiate it from regular fuel. Criminals use acid to wash the dye from the agri-fuel so they can pass it off as regular, full-priced diesel.

The CAB believes significant funds are being generated from the sale of laundered diesel and stretched petrol, which is diluted with methanol.

The profits generated from this illegal activity are significant as is the loss to the Irish Exchequer.

According to Gardaí, it also has “knock on effects” on legitimate business, as well as on unsuspecting customers who have very often experienced damage to their vehicles’ fuel systems or a poor return per litre of petrol.

Clean-up operations after toxic waste is dumped also costs Monaghan and Louth more then €4 million per year. Today, more than 16 tanks containing about 1,000 litres of this waste (known as sludge) were recovered.

Operation Loft is being lead by the Criminal Assets Bureau with assistance from the Revenue Commissioners and Her Majesties Revenue Customs (HMRC) in Northern Ireland. About 200 personnel were used in the Republic of Ireland during the mission today and searches were also conducted by PSNI specialist teams in border regions of Northern Ireland.

Gang members have 25 bank accounts frozen
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