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Wednesday, 8 May, 2002, 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK
NI traders urge action on illicit fuel
Diesel pump
Smuggled fuel in NI is costing the exchequer "millions"
Petrol retailers from Northern Ireland have been lobbying MPs to take greater action against fuel smugglers.

The Legitimate Oil Pressure Group held talks in London on Wednesday and said Customs and Excise must clamp down on illegal traders.

The group also said the government should remind customers of the dangers of buying cheap fuel.

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster is currently investigating the level of smuggling.

Fuel "laundering" plants have been uncovered close to the border

A recent National Audit investigation reported that six out of 10 petrol stations in Northen Ireland were selling fuel smuggled in from the Republic of Ireland.

Chairman of the Legitimate Oil Pressure Group Brian Donaldson said stringent penalties must be introduced to deter retailers from selling illicit fuel.

Fuel smugglers were singled out by the Chancellor in last month's Budget for tough new measures to curb cross border fraud.

Lost revenues

Measures include stricter control of fuel intended for agricultural use and new markers for diesel to prevent its illegal sale.

In February, the National Audit Office revealed that petrol and diesel smuggling in the UK was costing the Treasury 830m a year in lost tax revenues.

The government spending watchdog said the problem was worst in Northern Ireland, where smuggling and legitimate cross-border shopping are costing 380m alone.

New measures will result in a tightening of control of the distribution network for rebated fuels or red diesel as it is known.

It is estimated that up to 450 of Northern Ireland's 700 filling stations sell some illegal fuel, while as many as 250 sell no legal fuel at all.

The Audit Office warned that across the UK as a whole, the main problem was the illegal use in cars of low-duty diesel intended for farm use.

See also:

18 Apr 02 | Northern Ireland
Crack down on illegal fuel trade
25 Dec 01 | Northern Ireland
Irish border smugglers hit hard
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