A 25 year-old South Armagh man was acquitted of the alleged laundering of diesel oil following the discovery of a laundering plant in the Hackballscross area which was estimated capable of producing 21,000 litres of washed diesel a day.
Peter Shevlin of Lismore Estate, Crossmaglen was on Friday acquitted by direction of the trial Judge of being knowingly concerned in removing or attempting to remove prescribed marker, solvent yellow 124 from mineral oil.
He also faced a second charge of keeping prohibited goods in respect of which an application was also made by his barrister Tony Gillicuddy at the end of the prosecution evidence. Judge Leonie Reynolds is to give her decision on it today (Tuesday) when the jury is to return after being released at lunch time on Friday.
Dundalk Circuit Court heard the case arose when customs officers assisted by Gardai carried out a search under warrant of a shed at Rassan, Hackballscross on February 16 2011. They seized 21,000 litres of washed diesel and 19,000 litres of waste substance in the shed. Also found were two tanks, pumps , filters, a movable gantry, empty and full Bleached Earth bags, 98 bulk containers which contained dark coloured liquid.
It was stated the accused was in a doorway when the search team arrived. He locked the door which he then opened after a matter of minutes. Officers gained a strong smell of diesel on entering and pumps were running.
The accused pleaded not guilty to the two counts. He stated when interviewed that he was present as he was fixing a digger. Part of his defence was that there was a digger 150 yards from the shed.
The jury of eight woman and four men was told that the accused at 8.15am on the date in question pulled up in a black Volkswagen golf outside a entrance gate to the property on which the shed was located.
A customs officer on surveillance duty told at the beginning of the evidence last Wednesday that he saw the accused open the padlock on the entrance gate into the property where the shed was located.
He said the accused put the car onto the drive way on the lane that led to the shed. He closed the gate and proceeded up the lane.
Sergeant Ronal Cleary, one of six Gardai who accompanied the Customs officers, said as he approached the shed the roller shutter door at the front was closed, but a small steel door was open or ajar. He saw the accused inside the doorway close this door.
The Sergeant said he was wearing a high visibility jacket and a cap with the words Garda on them. He called on the accused to stop but he closed the door.
Witness banged on the door a number of times, clearly identifying himself as a Garda. After a couple of minutes the accused opened the door.
He and Garda colleagues entered the shed and carried out a search. There was nobody else in the shed.
He said inside there were two large tanks and a large amount of piping and hosing and some description of a pump, and a large quantity of IVC cubes ( bulk containers) which contained dark coloured liquid. He detected a strong smell of fuel or diesel fuel.
He said the accused wasn’t wearing a mask, and from what he recalled he was wearing an overall. The prosecution acknowledged that the accused hadn’t previous convictions.
The black Volkswagen Golf car driven by the accused was searched and two mobile telephones were found in it, and other items including correspondences addressed to him and a passport.
The accused had two mobile telephones on him. All the property was returned to him. He told Gardai he lived in Crossmaglen and the car belonged to his sister.
The man who admitted he was in control of the shed said he had no knowledge of what was happening in the shed. He said he had leased it to a named man for a garage repair shop at €50 a week. This man was not known of at the address given in Castleblayney. The tenant was to pay for the ESB.
The overseeing Customs Officer admitted under cross examination that this position was not checked and whether the bill was paid for this period. Also there was no enquiries carried out into the mobile phones on advice.