An illegal filling station and two laundering plants, capable of producing nearly 15 million litres of illicit fuel a year and evading almost £10m in lost duty and taxes, have been dismantled by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Officers from HMRC and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) raided commercial premises in the Castlewellan area of Co Down on Thursday 10 April.

At an industrial unit HMRC officers discovered a huckster site, which is an illegal filling station, where diesel was being laundered, then sold on to the public as legitimate road fuel.

In unrelated activity, HMRC and PSNI officers dismantled a second laundering plant discovered inside an agricultural shed in the Crossmaglen area of south Armagh.

Forecourt pumps, tanks, equipment and a number of vehicles were seized during the operations and investigations are continuing.

Mike Parkinson, assistant director, criminal investigation, HMRC, said: “Fuel laundering is a dangerous activity. At the Co Down site fuel was stored, laundered and sold without any safety precautions, endangering any motorist buying fuel there.

“Motorists may think they are getting a bargain buying illicit fuel, but you have no idea what you’re buying, and you can be sure that you are lining the pockets of criminals. We ask anyone with information about this type of activity to contact us on the Customs’ Hotline on 0800 595000.”