Irwin welcomes move to discuss fuel raid tip-offs

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Saturday, March 23rd, 2013
Newry and Armagh DUP Assemblyman William Irwin has questioned the Justice Minister David Ford on concerns that insider information was potentially passed to those involved fuel in laundering and tax evasion prior to raids in South Armagh on 13th March. The raids co-ordinated by Customs officials and Police on both sides of the border under the code name Operation Loft, resulted in laundered fuel being seized along with laundering equipment. However, it was the lack of arrests and reports that the charred remains of computers and documents were discovered which had been burnt earlier that morning, that led to claims the suspects had been tipped off. Irwin received an answer to his Assembly question on Friday welcoming the fact that a meeting will be arranged with all agencies involved in the recent raids to “consider all the circumstances”. Speaking to Newry Times, Irwin said, “It was extremely concerning to learn following Operation Loft that not one single arrest was made in connection with tax evasion and the highly toxic and illegal pursuit of laundering fuel. “I had quite a number of calls from constituents angered by the fact that Customs officials on both sides of the border, supported by the respective Police forces, were unable to arrest anyone in connection with this activity and it automatically leads to the conclusion that the suspects were tipped off.” “This is highly concerning and even more so when you consider that fires were witnessed burning prior to the raid as computers and documents were burnt, obviously in a bid by the suspects to cover their tracks. This issue raises extremely serious questions and that is why I wanted to relay my concerns to our own Justice Minister.” He added, “I am pleased that a meeting will be convened with the senior management of all the agencies involved in Operation Loft and that the issue of information being leaked to criminals will be discussed as part of this. “I will be keeping in touch with the Minister on this issue and raising further concerns with HMRC, these matters require the utmost attention especially if operations are being compromised in this fashion.” More on this story: Major cross border operation targets South Armagh criminal gang
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