Three men have been arrested and a suspected fuel laundering plant dismantled as part of an HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigation into a suspected multi-million pound fuel fraud.

More than 50 HMRC officers, supported by North Wales Police and Police Service of Northern Ireland, carried out simultaneous searches of nine business and four residential addresses in Stoke, Crewe, Manchester, Surrey, Gloucestershire, Devon and Northern Ireland on Thursday 13 September.

One man, aged 31, was arrested in the Belfast area and a residential premises was searched in south Armagh. At this site, 22,500 litres of fuel was seized, along with 3,100 litres of marked gas oil, 350 litres of Kerosene and 12,700 litres of lubricant. Two box lorries, a caddy van and a forklift were also seized.

A suspected fuel laundering plant was dismantled, and it is believed it had the capacity to produce 20 million litres of illicit fuel a year, potentially evading £11m in revenue.

In the Greater Belfast area a further 6,500 litres of suspected laundered fuel was recovered from a retail site.

In England, one man, aged 31, was arrested at an address in the Crewe area, and a residential and retail premises in Stoke were searched. In addition, one man aged 37 was arrested at an address in Surrey and four retail premises in Devon were searched.

On the same day Manchester Evening News reported that a Texaco-branded site in Stockport was raided by officers from HMRC and Greater Manchester Police.

An HMRC fuel testing van was photographed at the site and sales of diesel were suspended.

The three men arrested were questioned by HMRC and have been released pending further enquiries. Investigations are ongoing.

Tracey Noon, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “The illicit trade in laundered fuel is a serious crime and one we are determined to detect and disrupt.

“We remain alert to the often dangerous methods and efforts of criminals to remove the government markers from rebated fuel.

“Given that laundering plants have been found adjacent to homes and retail sites we would urge anyone with information about this dangerous activity to report it to HMRC online or contact our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788887.”