Published Tuesday, 27 March 2012
Fuel laundering is estimated to have cost NI £70 million in revenue in 2009-10. (© Getty)
A report from the House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Committee found fuel crime has a disproportionate impact in the region and higher priority must be given to fighting it.
The committee found although HMRC allocated an additional £917m in 2010-11 to clamp down on tax avoidance and evasion across the UK, it should make a more concerted effort to eradicate the problem in Northern Ireland.
Laurence Robertson, Chair of the Committee said: "Fuel fraud is carried out by organised criminal gangs, some of which have paramilitary links and are engaged in the most serious crimes: drugs, human trafficking and money laundering. Buying and selling illicit fuel funds these activities."
It is thought that 12% of diesel sold in the region is illicit, compared to 4% in Great Britain, and district councils have paid out £330,000 in the last five years to clean up the harmful waste products left by laundering.
However, only four people received custodial sentences for fuel fraud in the region between 2001 and 2009.
And the committee said it is concerned that the limited success of assets recovery does not act as a deterrent, while the lack of progress on developing new 'markers', such as those that change the colour of red diesel, has been labelled "disappointing".
"We would urge [HMRC] to make a more concerted effort to eradicate the problem of fuel crime in Northern Ireland, where it is most prevalent. Not enough of these criminals are being brought to justice, and certainly relative to the situation in Great Britain, yet arguably greater harm is being caused in Northern Ireland," added Mr Robertson.
The committee has called for HMRC to focus its efforts on finding the latest technology in marking rebated diesel and report back before the summer.