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Wednesday, 9 October, 2002, 11:57 GMT 12:57 UK
Police impound cars run on cooking oil
Police in west Wales have taken action against five drivers in one day for using vehicles run on cooking oil as part of a clampdown on the illegal practice.

The motorists were stopped under new legislation which makes it an offence to use the oil as an alternative fuel without paying a fuel tax levy.


All cars on public roads must pay a tax on the fuel they use

Bill O'Leary, Customs and Excise

It has been reported that a growing number of motorists are using the ordinary frying pan oil in their diesel engines to cut costs.

But such drivers face having their vehicles impounded if they do not pay a fine of 500 and persistent offenders face up to seven years in jail.

The legal problem is, that by using 32p-a-litre cooking oil instead of costing around 73p a litre, they are not paying fuel tax.

But they are committing an offence because all cars on public roads must pay fuel tax - and cooking oil is not taxed.

Officers have launched a crackdown in areas and it is reported that six drivers were arrested and questioned at Burry Port.

The Automobile Association (AA) has warned that cost-conscious motorists could be storing up trouble for themselves.

Oil fumes

"It could severely damage your vehicle if you do not follow the manufacturers instructions about which fuel to use," a spokesman said.

Traffic police - dubbed "frying squad" officers - are sniffing out the tax dodgers because the fumes smell like chips cooking.

One driver, who did not want to be named, said: "I've halved my motoring costs since I started running my diesel Subaru on cooking oil. The car runs just as well and even smells a lot better than diesel."

The motorist was one of dozens who have had their cars impounded in the crackdown.


Anyone seen attempting to wipe out our stock with bulk purchases would be stopped

Asda spokeswoman

He said: "I was stopped by an unmarked car which had blue lights flashing. The officer went to the fuel tank, dipped it, and found cooking oil.

"I put my hands up to the offence and the car was towed away. They said Customs would be notified."

Legal powers given to the Customs and Excise mean that drivers are being forced to hand over 650 to get their vehicles back.

They can be fined 500 for using illegal fuel and charged a 150 towing fee.

More sold

A Dyfed-Powys Police spokesman denied earlier reports that six drivers had been arrested in the crackdown.

"It is part of our spot stop-and-check fuel strategy to catch offenders dodging fuel taxes."

One supermarket in Llanelli confirmed it sold more cooking oil than any other branch in the country.

Asda spokeswoman Rachel Fellows said: "We have to admit we do sell a lot of cooking oil at our Llanelli store, but anyone seen attempting to wipe out our stock with bulk purchases would be stopped."

Customs and Excise spokesman Bill O'Leary said: "All cars on public roads must pay a tax on the fuel they use.

"Evasion is a criminal offence and carries a maximum seven-year jail term."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Derek Ivens reports from Llanelli
"It's a big, big tax fraud"
Head of technical policy at the AA, John Stubbs
"It's going to cause damage to the engine sooner rather than later"

More from south west Wales
See also:

29 Jul 98 | Asia-Pacific
05 Mar 01 | Scotland
09 May 02 | Science/Nature
02 Oct 00 | UK
Internet links:


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