Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Questions (59)

Declan Breathnach


59. Deputy Declan Breathnach asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 83 of 3 July 2018, if his attention has been drawn to new techniques being employed by fuel smugglers utilising a form of distillation of diesel fuel that successfully removes the marker; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that a large tanker of diesel sludge was illegally dumped in Dundalk in recent weeks; if he will provide an increase in resources to capture those involved in fuel laundering; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40929/18]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am advised by Revenue that they recognise the serious threat that fuel fraud poses to legitimate business, consumers and the Exchequer and that tackling this criminal activity has been and remains a high priority.

The measures implemented by Revenue to tackle the problem of fuel fraud include the introduction of stringent supply chain controls and reporting requirements for fuel transactions to minimise the scope for fraud and a programme of risk focused intelligence development and enforcement interventions involving fuel sampling. In addition, Revenue and HM Revenue and Customs in the United Kingdom undertook a joint initiative to find a new fiscal marker (Accutrace S10™) for use in marked fuels, which was introduced in Ireland and the United Kingdom from the beginning of April 2015. Accutrace S10™ is a colourless marker whose chemical properties are similar to those of diesel, rendering it resistant to conventional dye-washing laundering methods. All the indications are that the introduction of this new marker, together with the wide range of other measures taken to prevent and combat fraud, has had a major impact on the illicit fuel trade. Revenue has undertaken research to assess the impact of this strategy and published an analysis (available at http://www.revenue.ie/en/about/publications/oil-market-analysis.pdf) in January 2015 of oil market trends and, on the basis of a comparison of extrapolated pre-2013 trends with actual results for 2103 and 2014, estimated that the strategy pursued may have saved the Exchequer between €150 million and €200 million in 2014. Updated analysis published by Revenue (available at http://www.revenue.ie/en/about/publications/oil-market-2017.pdf) in April 2017 showed that the impact of Revenue’s initiatives may be contributing to a further uplift in receipts from diesel of up to €35 million per annum (based on 2016 levels of trade).

Revenue is aware of attempts to remove the marker by using a distillation process. This involves heating the marked fuel to extremely high temperatures. This is a highly dangerous procedure, with significant physical health and safety implications for anyone involved. Revenue is arranging formal scientific analysis of fuel samples and equipment taken in the course of a recent operation to determine the nature and impact of any process to remove the fiscal marker. In the meantime, I am assured by Revenue that it remains very vigilant in relation to this and any other possible threats related to fuel fraud.

While it is very disappointing that incidents of illegal dumping of mineral oil waste still occur, I am advised that the level of this dumping is greatly reduced. I am further advised by Revenue that having regard to its overall level of resources, it is satisfied that it has the necessary resources and powers to undertake the appropriate range of interventions to tackle smuggling and tax evasion activities by those engaged in fuel fraud. I remain open to discussing with Revenue future requirements they may have as regards resources or powers to maximise their effectiveness in tackling fuel fraud.