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Wednesday, 5 December, 2001, 21:15 GMT
Crime crackdown 'will continue'
Illegal operations were making thousands of pounds a week
Illegal operations were making thousands of pounds a week
The police have promised there will be more action to crack down on organised crime following Wednesday's major cross-border fuel smuggling raids.

Police and customs officers on both sides of the Northern Ireland border raided suspected fuel smuggling and money laundering operations during Operation Spendthrift.

Thirty-one premises in south Armagh and Tyrone were searched by more than 200 police and 100 customs officers.

Premises in the Irish border counties of Louth and Monaghan were searched by the Irish police and the Criminal Assets Bureau.

The co-ordinated raids on petrol stations, private houses, a bureau de change and an accountant's office made up one of the biggest ever crack downs on those suspected of involvement organised crime on the island.

ACC Stephen White:
ACC Stephen White: "Similar operations will continue"

In Northern Ireland, premises were raided and arrests were made in Crossmaglen, Keady and Omagh. In the Irish Republic there were raids in Castleblayney in Co Monaghan and Dundalk in County Louth.

Ten people were arrested and fuel tankers and large amounts in cash were seized.

Assistant Chief Constable Stephen White, of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, said more operations were planned.

He said: "I want to make it clear to everyone involved in smuggling, either at the top of the organisations, or those buying or using illegal fuels, that this is a criminal act.

"There are agencies who are going to take further action.

Computers and cash were seized

"I think we have demonstrated that and this is by no means the only activity we will be involved in."

In the House of Commons on Wednesday, Northern Ireland Security Minister Jane Kennedy welcomed the crackdown.

Ms 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".

Ms Kennedy said smuggling not only defrauded the government, but also hit legitimate business people.

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

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

05 Dec 01 | Northern Ireland
Operation targets fuel smugglers
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
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