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HMRC officers raid diesel laundering plants in Ashford and Liverpool capable of producing illicit fuel worth millions of pounds a year.

Customs officers have raided a diesel laundering plant in Ashford capable of producing illicit fuel worth millions of pounds a year.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers removed 12,000 litres of suspected illicit fuel from the site, dismantled the laundering plant and seized chemicals, equipment and separately a fuel tanker.

It was one of two operations across the country, the second raids taking place in Liverpool.

Inside the Ashford plant
Inside the Ashford plant

A spokesman said the two plants were capable of producing nearly 120,000 litres of fuel a day, evading almost £12.5 million in taxes a year.

The operation involved over 100 HMRC officers, assisted by Kent, Merseyside, Lancashire, Essex, West Midlands and Staffordshire police forces. A further eight premises were searched during the activity and another five men arrested in Essex, Lancashire and the West Midlands.

Sandra Smith, assistant director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said: "It is wrong that honest businesses should be undercut by criminals involved in making or selling laundered fuel. Buying illicit fuel not only funds crime, it supports and encourages these dangerous activities within our communities."

Inside the illegal fuel plant uncovered in Ashford
Inside the illegal fuel plant uncovered in Ashford

"Every illegal laundering operation typically generates tonnes of toxic waste, involving significant safety and environmental issues. As taxpayers and local ratepayers, not only are we missing out on the stolen tax that ends up the pockets of the criminals, we are also paying the substantial clean-up and disposal costs."

All those arrested have been bailed until April 2015 pending further inquiries. Investigations into the illegal fuel plants are continuing.

Anyone with information about fuel fraud should call the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000.

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