Seven men have been arrested by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and four tonnes of toxic waste removed, after two fuel laundering plants were discovered in Essex on Wednesday July 27.

As part of a multi-agency investigation into a suspected £1.4m fuel fraud, more than 50 officers from HMRC and the Environment Agency, carried out simultaneous searches of three business and six residential addresses in south Essex and Kent.

Between them, the two laundering plants had the potential to produce three million litres of illicit fuel a year, evading an estimated £1.4m in revenue.

The laundering plants have been dismantled and 36,000 litres of suspected laundered fuel seized, along with three fuel tankers, two vans and £28,000 cash.

The seven men arrested were questioned by HMRC and have been bailed. Investigations into the fraud are ongoing.

Brett Wilkinson, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “Laundering fuel is a serious crime which HMRC is determined to tackle. The organised criminals involved in this type of fraud steal millions each year in unpaid duty and taxes, which should be funding public services, not lining their pockets. We are determined to take that profit away.

“The toxic waste from fuel laundering poses a real threat to the environment and costs thousands of pounds to dispose of safely. Taxpayers are not only missing out on the stolen tax, but we also have to fund the substantial clean up and disposal costs.

“We urge anyone with information about the transport, storage or sale of suspected illicit fuel to contact our 24 hour Hotline on 0800 595000.”