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Dublin: 18 °C Wednesday 5 August, 2020
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Dissidents turn their attention elsewhere as Revenue crush IRA fuel smuggling ring

There has been a significant decrease in the number of fuel laundries operational on the island of Ireland.

Image: Revenue

DISSIDENT REPUBLICANS HAVE always controlled the fuel smuggling operation in Ireland.

Washing diesel became the norm, processing plants, like shebeens for fuel, popped up along border villages, squirrelled away down back roads, hidden from the authorities.

The fuel smuggling, coupled with the money garnered through bank robberies and other illicit trading still funds the IRA, although not at the same level it once did.

The top brass of the republican movement are either in prison or on-the-run.

The money-making has been left to their former underlings, men whose desire for cash trumps their supposed political ideals.

But it is Revenue, along with gardaí and the PSNI. which is helping cut the cash heading for the IRA and other dissident groups.

IMG_0077 Pictures from the scene of a fuel laundry Source: Revenue

Pat Gralton is the enforcement manager in the Border Midlands West Region.

His job has been a tough one. but he and his team have managed to remove three million ltres of laundered fuel from the Irish market in the past five years, a feat worth €200 million annually to the Exchequer.

In the past year, Revenue has discovered the presence of 80 ‘sludge dumps’ in the Louth and Monghan areas compared to 425 in the same period last year.

DSC_0020 Example of fuel laundering machinery seized. Source: Revenue

Sludge dumps are the residue of the remainder of marked gas oil.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Gralton described how he and his team tackle the smugglers and the rogue traders.

He said: “Those 80 sludge dumps are clear indicators of the success of the action plan we’ve put in place in eliminating fuel laundering. First of all, people to be successful laundering fuel they have to have outlets, somewhere to retail it. We brought in new licences to tighten up on the availability of green diesel for the launderers.”

Easy money

In the space of five years, Revenue has closed down 149 filling stations and seized over 3 million litres of oil from them.

Gralton added: “2011 is a critical year for us and there is a reason for that. Environmental legislation which took place around that time it paved the way for fuel launderers. What it did was reduce what could be the legal sulfur content of marked gas oil.

“Ordinary diesel could not be marketed with more than 10 parts per million of sulfur but marked gas oil could have up to 1000 parts per million. Changes to the air pollution act makes sure the same conditions applied for marked gas and ordinary diesel. This really worked in favour of the launderers.”

IMG_0010 Laundering machinery Source: Revenue

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New marker

Organised criminal gangs could previously profit €18,000 per tankard of fuel they offloaded. They would be shipping off huge quantities of the fuel to retailers who could then charge cheaper rates for the diesel.

Gralton described how it was almost impossible to tell the difference between real and illicit fuels until the new Accutrace marker was brought in. The marker adds “an almost DNA-like marker to the fuel” and it is almost impossible to remove.

IMG_0030 Bleaching agent which was used to remove markers before Accutrace. Source: Revenue

Revenue raided and shut down 31 oil laundries in a period of five years.

Now that dissident republicans and other border-based criminal gangs can not so easily profit from fuel laundering, there has been an uptake in the production of counterfeit alcohol.

But for the most part, the diesel smuggling industry, although clinging on to life, has been dealt with.

Gralton said there are still those who take the risk by buying the dodgy fuel.

But he warned: “Is it worth the €5,000 fine? ”

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