Newry & Armagh DUP representative William Irwin MLA has questioned the Justice Minister Claire Sugden on the success of the recently introduced fuel marker additive in the fight against fuel laundering.
Mr Irwin, who tabled an oral question in the Assembly chamber on Tuesday, said that it was important that the fuel launderers were given “no quarter” to carry out their illicit trade and he said that the marker was an important tool in the HMRC’s fight against tax evasion.
In her response, Miss Sugden said: “Following joint work by HMRC and its Irish counterparts, a new fuel marker, Accutrace, was introduced into UK fuel supplies on 1 April 2015. Her Majesty’s Treasury has just issued the one-year review of the performance of this marker which has confirmed a reduction in the number and size of laundering plants, consistent with an overall shift away from illicit laundering. There is no evidence of successful laundering of the new marker.
“HMRC will continue to keep the fuel marker under review and will take further action if required however, while accepting that the fight against fuel fraud of various sorts will be an ongoing one, I think we can all acknowledge that the fuel marker represents a success story for law enforcement and is an excellent example of cross border co-operation.”
Mr Irwin said he was keen to hear the views of the Justice Minister given that she has a role to play in her Ministerial role as Chair of the Northern Ireland Organised Crime Task Force.
He said: “It is certainly good to hear that the marker by all accounts appears to be having the desired effect of reducing the prevalence of laundering, something which has had a very great impact on both the environment in my own constituency and of course the Treasury with a huge loss of revenue.
“People who purchase laundered fuel directly impact legal fuel distributors and dispensers who obviously are unable to compete with the cut price and indeed ‘engine damaging’ laundered product.
“The fact that the Minister has stated that there is no evidence of the ‘Accutrace’ fuel marker being successfully laundered, is very important given that those involved in this illicit trade will no doubt have been attempting to ‘crack’ this marker to continue with their illegality.”
He concluded: “Obviously in this criminal underworld there will be further attempts at trying to remove the marker illegally and I would urge the Minister, HMRC, the PSNI and our Environmental officials to continue to monitor this matter very closely and take robust action against anyone involved in this illegal trade.”