RAC Cars News


Ilegal Fuel Garages On The Rise

By raccars Published

HM Revenue and Customs has released figures revealing that Britain is suffering from a rash of illegal pop-up garages trading in stolen and impure fuel. With British motorists suffering from huge price increases at regular fuel stations, some may jump at the chance of a discount fuel buy, at the risk of causing serious damage to vehicles or facing substantial fines if caught with the dodgy fuel in their tanks.

The criminal industry is run by gangs cashing in on cash strapped motorists, using fuel from various sources, including red diesel for agricultural use. Red diesel is cheaper thanks to a lower rate of tax, but drivers caught running on the agricultural fuel are subject to large fines. To disguise the origins of the illegal fuel, the red dye can be removed with chemicals. However the same chemicals can seriously damage engines, costing unwitting car owners heavily in repair bills.

Bolder criminals are sourcing fuel directly from stations, stealing it from forecourt reservoirs. Kent fuel stations in particular have suffered from massive raids, with one company losing 9,500 litres of fuel to a value of £13,200.

On the plus side, HMRC suggested that the 48% rise in fuel crime was less a result of increased criminal activity and more of improved crime detection rates. 6,506 site investigations were made over the past year in the UK, with 388 incidences of illegal fuel sales noted. From 2009-2010, 262 illegal fuel sales discoveries were made.

The Petrol Retailers Association has pointed the finger at the depressed economic situation to explain the crime wave and expressed its support for the HMRC investigation. Nearly 200 independent service stations close every year in Great Britain, with the problem concentrated in rural locations. Illegal fuel supplies contribute to the accompanying loss of employment and important facilities for local residents.

A third of the illegal detections made in the last year were in Northern Ireland, including 22 out of 49 manufacturing sites. However, this is an improvement on previous figures covering illegal fuel sales in Northern Ireland. 2009-2010 investigations found 150 incidences versus 128 in the 2012-2013 period. By contrast, the problem has soared in the UK, where 112 occasions of illegal fuel sales in 2009-2010 increased to 260 over the past year.

The HMRC's investigation did not cover the Republic of Ireland, where the government estimates that illegal fuel sales cost it up to €150 million annually. HMRC has suggested that the scale of Britain's problem could be costing the Exchequer anywhere from £150 million to £700 million per year.

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