Clean-up of diesel sludge costs county council x686,000 in 2013

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Criminal gangs involved in fuel laundering are continuing to cripple the local economy and the taxpayer.

Criminal gangs involved in fuel laundering are continuing to cripple the local economy and the taxpayer.

As of December 20th 2013 Louth Local Authorities have reported 103 dumping incidents in the county - mostly north Louth - which cost the local authority €686,000.

A total of 688 tons of sludge was dumped.

Three diesel laundering plants were raided by customs in the county in 2013. This compares with a total of four in 2012.

Extra garda resources, linking up with customs and the PSNI, has resulted in greater success in tackling the problem.

However, the dumping of diesel sludge in the county is costing each local taxpayer a fortune with the local authority now spending an average of €14,000 euro a week cleaning up the mess left by criminals.

That’s the equivalent of 36 household charge payments.

As well as costing the taxpayer a fortune it is also posing a huge risk to local business and jobs.

Fine Gael Senator Jim D’Arcy has raised the matter in the Oireachtas.

He said fuel laundering and smuggling is not a “victimless crime”.

“A good deal of revenue is being lost and people’s jobs are at risk,” Senator D’Arcy said. “Some legitimate dealers have had to close down because of this activity.”

There are claims that many motorists in the Dundalk area have suffered mechanical damage to their vehicles as a result of buying sub-standard fuel at filling stations.

Last September a fuel quality campaign was organised by local petrol retailers as a fight-back against the criminals involved in fuel laundering.

Fifteen top petrol retailers fly a flag at their forecourts with the guaranteed quality sign indicating that the fuel on sale is guaranteed legitimate top quality motor fuel. So motorists know that what they buy will not damage their vehicles and the money is not going to criminal gangs.

Mr David Blevings of the Irish Petrol Retailers Association (IPRA) said that as well as higher prices, a major problem facing the legitimate trade right across the country is the serious increase in the number of stations now allegedly offering laundered fuel.

“This is usually gasoil for agricultural use which has had the dye removed and is passed off as genuine diesel,” Mr Blevings said.

And last year, 500 tons of diesel sludge had to be cleaned out at a disused quarry at Cavan Hill near the water treatment plant at Knockbridge.

This was discovered in 2011.

Experts had to be called in to clear it and the toxic material was taken to the Continent for disposal at a cost of €0.5m.

The Minister of State for Small Business John Perry has said stated that the Revenue are acutely aware of the threat posed by the illegal activity and tax evasion in Louth.

A cross-border fuel fraud group has been set up to tackle the problem. It brings together An Garda Síochána and the PSNI, as well as the UK and Irish Revenue authorities.