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Police raid diesel laundering plant; Equipment set up to remove dye from low-tax fuel.

Byline: By HYWEL TREWYN

AN INVESTIGATION was underway last night after scores of police swooped on an illegal diesel-laundering plant.

The hush-hush raid - codenamed Operation Vamoose - took place against a background of increasing protests from hauliers across Wales against high levels of tax on fuel.

Teams of police joined Customs and Excise officers to search premises in the Johnstown area, on the outskirts of Wrexham, on Wednesday.

They found 42,000 litres of red diesel suspected to be part of a laundering plant and believed to be worth around pounds 20,000.

Customs spokesman Cliff Hathaway described it as a significant find and the first of its kind in Wales.

He said: 'We have no record of any other.'

The team also recovered 37,000 cigarettes, 27 kilos of tobacco and 60 litres of spirits believed to have been smuggled into the country and one stolen caravan.

Police confirmed last night that no arrests have been made at this stage and their investigations were continuing.

Mr Hathaway said the laundering plant was was using a carbon-filtration method to try and get rid of the red chemical dye which is in the diesel or gas oil to differentiate it from other fuels with a higher rate of excise duty.

It is believed the plant was set up to try and avoid UK excise duty on red diesel which is around 3.13p per litre compared to 48.82p per litre for diesel road fuel.

All off-road vehicles - including trains and boats - can use red diesel. Some vehicles can use it on the road including tractors and combine harvesters.

Petrol fuelled vehicles cannot use red diesel because it seriously damages the engine. Selling red diesel at the rebated rate for use in normal road vehicles is illegal.

Mr Hathaway said: 'The location was in a rural area on a site very close to good roads leading to Wrexham and Chester as well as into England. They were selling the stuff on.'

The plant has now being dismantled and the site is being cleared up by the Environment Agency
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Apr 23, 2005
Words:346
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