A diesel laundering plant, capable of evading £1.4m in duty, has been dismantled by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in a commercial premises in Sunderland city centre.

The laundering plant, with the potential to produce 2.5 million litres of illicit fuel a year, and an illegal filling station were uncovered last Friday (6 February). HMRC officers, accompanied by Northumbria police, searched the city-centre property and discovered the filling station, where it is suspected fuel was being laundered and sold to the public as legitimate road fuel.

Pat Curtis, national oils co-ordinator, HMRC, said: “Fuel laundering is a dangerous activity. We believe that fuel was stored, laundered and sold from this property, without any safety precautions, endangering any motorist buying fuel there.

“Motorists may think buying illicit fuel is a bargain, but you have no idea what you’re getting, 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.”

Forecourt pumps, 3,200 litres of suspected laundered fuel, tanks and equipment were seized during the operation. Investigations are continuing.