Customs officials raid ‘illicit diesel plant’ in Upminster

An image from inside the suspected diesel plant in Upminster

An image from inside the suspected diesel plant in Upminster - Credit: Archant

A suspected illicit diesel plant has been found in Upminster.

A pump at the suspected plant

A pump at the suspected plant - Credit: Archant

The makeshift industrial unit, discovered by customs officials and police at an undisclosed location, is said to be part of a plot to evade an estimated £12million in duty through the laundering of 20million litres of diesel a year.

Illicit fuel costs the government millions of pounds annually and production typically creates tonnes of toxic waste.

About 14,000 litres of the diesel, as well as 136 industrial containers and 50 gallons oil drums thought to contain waste were found at “commercial premises” in Upminster, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said.

Pat Curtis, national oils co-ordinator, said: “Every illegal diesel laundering operation typically generates tonnes of toxic waste and robs UK taxpayers by evading fuel duty.

Customs officials investigating

Customs officials investigating - Credit: Archant

“Taxpayers are not only missing out on the stolen tax that ends up the pockets of the criminals, but will have to pay the substantial clean-up and disposal costs.

“Buying illicit fuel not only funds crime, it supports and encourages these dangerous activities within our communities and we will continue to work with our partners in the police to target this criminality, which costs millions in lost taxes every year.”

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HMRC said the Upminster plant, discovered on November 20, was believed to be part of a bigger operation, with other sites in West Thurrock and Merseyside. A spokeswoman said investigations with Kent Police were ongoing.

Diesel laundering involves processing lower taxed red or green fuel, dyed so it can be monitored by customs, to remove the colour. Chemicals and acids remain in the fuel and can damage pumps in diesel cars.