Three petrol filling stations in Northern Ireland, suspected of selling illicit fuel, were raided by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on Thursday February 20, and nearly 2,500 litres of fuel were seized.

HMRC officers tested the fuel in the forecourt tanks and all three stations, which were in the Omagh area, were believed to be selling illicit fuel.

A spokeswoman said HMRC was unable to identify the sites as tests on the fuel that was seized are continuing.

If the tests prove positive she said HMRC can use various sanctions ranging from seizure of fuel and associated equipment, to penalties or for more serious offences a criminal prosecution.

She said: “HMRC has a rolling programme of visits to retail sites and fuel suppliers as well as targeting illicit filling stations, known as huckster sites.”

She added that HMRC aims to encourage people to buy fuel from legitimate retailers and to inform motorists of the indicators that they should be wary of the fuel on sale, such as:

• electronic payment is not accepted;

• no receipt/invoice is given;

• petrol is not available to buy;

• fuel is sold at below a reasonable legitimate market value for the area.

She also warned that any vehicles HMRC detected using illicit fuel were liable for forfeiture. However, in most circumstances HMRC will offer restoration after payment of a penalty plus the duty on a full tank, and HMRC will take all circumstances into consideration, for example if a motorist was to inadvertently fill the vehicle with illicit fuel.

She added: “If anyone has any information about fuel fraud we would ask that they contact the Customs’ Hotline on 0800 595000.”