A group suspected of large-scale fuel theft worth more than £1m have been arrested, following a series of raids led by North Wales Police.

The group are suspected of involvement in approximately 40 thefts from sites all over Great Britain, with seven of these incidents reported within North Wales.

In each of the North Wales offences, committed at industrial units in Wrexham, Flintshire and Anglesey, approximately £50,000 worth of fuel was stolen.

Cumulatively, the gang is suspected to have stolen fuel worth over £1m in offences committed in Hampshire, Surrey, Kent, West Mercia and Scotland.

Thieves used large vehicle batteries to power pump systems which moved the fuel from storage tanks to large intermediate bulk containers (IBCs).

Using these devices enabled them to syphon around 10,000 litres of fuel per hour at each location.

The raids followed an extensive joint-policing operation targeting a suspected organised crime gang based in the West Midlands.

On Friday 22 April addresses in the Smethwick, Small Heath, Handsworth and Dudley areas of Birmingham were identified and searched under warrants.

The premises included residential properties, and industrial units where suspects were believed to be storing fuel.

North Wales Police officers were assisted by colleagues from West Midlands Police in executing the raids, which resulted in the arrest of three people.

Officers also seized a heavy goods vehicle suspected to be linked with fuel thefts.

DCI Alun Oldfield said: “Today’s arrests are the result of an intensive year-long investigation, which sought to identify those responsible for a spate of large-scale fuel thefts.

“Led by North Wales Police officers, this cross-force operation culminated in the execution of targeted warrants across the Birmingham area.

“I would like to thank West Midlands Police officers and the Customs and Excise staff who assisted in this operation.

“Victims incurred significant financial losses as a result of these crimes and today’s arrests will disrupt the co-ordinated planning of future fuel thefts across the UK.”

The arrested suspects remain in custody and the investigation is continuing.