Attwood tells Westminster MP’s: ‘Newry and Mourne still a hotbed for fuel smuggling’
Westminster MP’s were told this week that the Newry and Mourne area is still a hotbed for illegal fuel smuggling. Although there has been a substantial decline in legal action taken against smugglers throughout Northern Ireland, the Newry and Mourne Area, with particular emphasis on the South Armagh area, is still perceived in Parliament as being very active in the smuggling trade. According to the Newsletter, Newry and Mourne District Council spent £70,000 last year cleaning up sites contaminated by fuel laundering. Figures from HM Eevenue and Customs (HMRC) for 2010/11 show widespread diesel laundering and illegal sales across Northern Ireland.
Environment Minister Alex Attwood told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in London that ‘there has been a decline in prosecutions, convictions and penalties against people involved in the racket over the past eight to nine years.’ Atwood continued, “There are currently four major investigations targeting the upper end of the hierarchy. The issue will take 20 years to deal with due to the legacy of the conflict, but it will require political will at the highest level of government to do so. It is quite clear and there has been evidence that there are those involved in fuel smuggling and tobacco smuggling who can have relationships with republican dissident organisations, so there are definitely relationships.”
Speaking about the fuel trade in the Newry and Mourne area Attwood added, “The potential of threat mitigates against reporting crime. There is evidence emerging that citizens are now beginning to pass on information.”
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