Pop-up’ petrol stations selling fuel illegally, are a growing problem in Northern Ireland, according to a BBC Panorama programme which aired last month. In the past year more than 100 temporary illegal petrol stations selling laundered red diesel for as little as 90ppl, have apparently been discovered.

One site was said to be raking in £22,000 a month. Red diesel, which is intended for farm or building use, is being bleached and filtered by criminals across Northern Ireland and sold on cheaply.

Last month HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) uncovered three illegal diesel laundering plants in County Down and County Armagh. Officers seized a large quantity of chemicals used to launder diesel; fuel tanks, pumps and other equipment from a shed in Jonesborough. More than 6,000 litres of illicit fuel was removed in the operations.

Graeme Anderson, assistant director specialist investigations for HMRC, said: "Every illegal laundering operation has significant environmental and safety issues... These plants had the capacity to produce nearly 3mlpa of illicit fuel."

Meanwhile, Retail Ireland has called for tax reform and a better resourced police force and revenue response to illegal diesel laundering, which is costing the Irish government Euro150m in lost tax revenue every year.

See security feature, page 28.