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Wednesday, 5 December, 2001, 13:58 GMT
Operation targets fuel smugglers
Diesel pump
Border retailers have been hit by illegal fuel smugglers
Police and customs officers have launched what has been described as a "major operation" against fuel smugglers at different locations in south Armagh.

The operation, which also targeted money launderers, is part of an offensive against organised crime.

Ten people were arrested in what was called Operation Spendthrift.

Police sources have said that 31 premises were searched in the south Armagh operation and included petrol stations, business premises and houses.

On-going operation

The locations included Armagh, Keady and Midddletown.

Police in the Irish Republic have confirmed their involvement in Wednesday's operation.

They have searched at least three premises on the southern side of the border in what they said was an on-going operation.

Northern Ireland Security Minister Jane Kennedy, who is chair of the Organised Crime Task Force, said the government attached a high priority to tackling excise fraud and any related organised crime.

She added: "I am delighted to see Customs and the Police Service of Northern Ireland working together so effectively, with their counterparts in the South, to tackle excise fraud."

She said the multi-agency approach, promoted by the task force, had produced "tremendous successes this year".

Fuel smuggling is thought to result in the loss of millions of pounds of tax revenue in Northern Ireland each year.

The operation in the Republic involved the Garda Siochana force's Criminal Assets Bureau and fraud investigation officers.

BBC NI's Martin Anderson:
"Security sources said it was one of the biggest operations ever mounted"
See also:

09 Nov 01 | Northern Ireland
Dissident link to cigarettes seizure
05 Nov 01 | Northern Ireland
Illegal fuel funding paramilitary groups
02 Nov 99 | Northern Ireland
Petrol retailers warn of further closures
21 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Concern over fuel prices
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