Responding to the introduction of new legislation in order to help tackle fuel fraud the Freight Transport Association (FTA) has said it is "good news for the freight industry."
FTA in Northern Ireland has long campaigned on behalf of its members to combat the illegal activity, which has been destroying lawful and fair competition in the transport sector by undercutting those who comply with the law. At present fuel accounts for approximately 40% of operating costs for HGV’s therefore any undercutting on price through use of illegal fuel is significant.
Seamus Leheny, Policy & Membership Relations Manager – Northern Ireland commented:
"FTA realises that the majority of goods vehicle operators work within the law and have long campaigned on behalf of our members to help combat fuel fraud. This new legislation is a step in the right direction to help reinforce the clear message to any operator, tempted to indulge in wrong practices, including the illegal use of fuel, to think again. We know from talking to our members, that they are often undercut on prices by those using illegal fuel which deprives them of business, revenue and ultimately jobs."
FTA has helped play a part in the introduction of these new sanctions; including raising the subject with Environment Minister Mark H Durkan highlighting the need for a more robust system of sanctions to be introduced. As a result Minister Durkan subsequently met with the Justice Minister to discuss fuel laundering and how sanctions could be increased to act as a deterrent.
Northern Ireland Justice Minister David Ford has introduced the measure which will allow unduly lenient sentences for fuel and tobacco excise evasion to be appealed. It adds excise evasion on fuel and tobacco to the list of offences on which the director of public prosecutions (DPP) can refer a sentence considered to be unduly lenient to the Court of Appeal.
In Northern Ireland, the latest estimates from HMRC suggest the UK government lost about £70m in revenue in 2012 because of fuel laundering.
John Whiting of HMRC said:
"Tackling fuel fraud is a top priority for HMRC in Northern Ireland. In the last year we have seen a significant increase in the number of laundering plants dismantled and illicit fuel seized."