Men from Merseyside and Manchester have been arrested and 55,000 litres of fuel seized, as part of an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) into a suspected fuel smuggling fraud worth an estimated £3m in evaded tax.

HMRC officers searched one business and four domestic addresses in Knowsley, Liverpool, Manchester and St Helens.

Simultaneously, in Northern Ireland, HMRC and officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland carried out searches of six domestic addresses in counties Antrim, Armagh and Down.

Storage tanks, equipment, 55,000 litres of fuel, a quantity of cash, computers, business records, a lorry and a trailer were seized during the operation. Seven men have been released on bail and investigations continue.

The men arrested comprise: three men, aged 34, 54 and 72, from Merseyside; one man, age 37, from Manchester; one man, age 56, from County Down; one man, age 47, from County Antrim; and two men, aged 37 and 45, from County Armagh.

Sandra Smith, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “Fuel fraud costs millions of pounds in lost duty every year, meaning the public loses out on vital funds for essential services, and it creates an uneven playing field for honest businesses. We will continue to work with our partners to tackle this fraud and ask anyone with information about this type of activity to contact the Customs’ Hotline on 0800 595000, or report it online via:”