Four men were arrested and a diesel laundering plant dismantled during a raid by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in Northern Ireland on Friday (9 May).

The plant was capable of producing nearly 20 million litres of illicit fuel a year, at a cost of more than £12m in lost revenue.

Officers from HMRC and the Police Service of Northern Ireland searched a commercial address in the Jonesborough area of Newry where they uncovered the laundering plant inside an agricultural shed.

During the operation officers removed over 15 tonnes of toxic waste – the by-product of the laundering process – and almost 40,000 litres of illicit fuel, as well as a number of vehicles, pumps and equipment.

The four men – two from Northern Ireland and two from the Republic of Ireland – were interviewed by HMRC and released on bail. Investigations are continuing.

Mike Parkinson, assistant director, criminal investigation, HMRC said: “Every illegal laundering operation typically generates tonnes of toxic waste, involving significant safety and environmental issues. As taxpayers and local ratepayers, not only are we missing out on the stolen tax that ends up the pockets of the criminals, we are also paying the substantial clean-up and disposal costs.

“It is wrong that honest businesses should be undercut by criminals and those involved in making or selling laundered fuel. Buying illicit fuel not only funds crime, it supports and encourages these dangerous activities within our communities. If anyone has information about fuel fraud we would encourage them to contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 595000.”