Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kennedy has demanded action be taken to ensure that those responsible for fuel smuggling and laundering in his Newry & Armagh constituency are jailed.
Speaking after a major diesel laundering plant was discovered near the village of Jonesborough on Wednesday from which customers officers removed 14 tonnes of toxic waste, Mr Kennedy said:
“As an elected representative for Newry & Armagh I am extremely concerned at the extent of fuel laundering in the south Armagh area.
This is a long-standing issue and there is a lurking suspicion that republican paramilitaries both mainstream and dissident are involved. Many unionists in the area have suspected for some time that a political blind eye has been and is being turned to the problem, especially in light of the fact that for all the investigations and the number of plants that have been shut down, no-one has actually gone to prison in the last decade.
This is a very serious matter involving huge sums of money and great environmental damage. It must be addressed head on, illegal operations should be closed down and those responsible should be made amenable to the courts. Punishment must be commensurate, and it is quite clear that the fines currently imposed are an insufficient deterrent.
The problem of fuel smuggling and fuel laundering highlights the importance of the National Crime Agency – which has been described as a British version of the FBI – being permitted to operate in Northern Ireland with exactly the same powers as it will have in the rest of the United Kingdom. It is for Sinn Fein and the SDLP to explain just why they believe organised crime in Northern Ireland should be subject to less scrutiny than in Great Britain.”