I propose to take Questions Nos. 34 and 57 together.
The threat that fuel fraud, the illicit alcohol and illicit tobacco trades pose to legitimate business, to consumers and the Exchequer is clear and I am assured by Revenue that combatting such activity and criminality continues to be a priority for them.
Steps taken by Revenue to combat the illegal fuel trade include the introduction of stringent new supply chain controls and reporting requirements and a rigorous programme of enforcement action. In addition, Revenue in conjunction with the UK Revenue and Customs undertook a joint initiative to introduce a new marker for use in marked fuels, which came into operation from April 2015.
The industry view is that the action taken has been successful in curtailing fuel fraud. I am advised also that Revenue conducted random National Sampling Programmes in 2016 and 2017 to assess the extent of fuel laundering. The programmes each involved nearly one in ten of circa 2,500 holders of auto fuel trader licences and tests of diesel samples taken from the randomly selected traders found no evidence of the new marker in any of them. The results of these sampling are a clear indication that Revenue’s actions have resulted in the near elimination of the selling of laundered products at retail level. A further sampling programme, in 2018, was expanded to include hauliers and other businesses in the transport sector. Analysis from the results of this programme gave rise to three positive detections and investigation towards prosecution is now underway.
Illicit trade in alcohol can occur through the diversion of untaxed alcohol on to the market, through the production of counterfeit alcohol and through smuggling from countries with lower taxes. While there has been little evidence of large-scale illegal activity, as indicated by the low value of seizures in 2017 (€0.91million) when set against the overall value of the alcohol market (€6.1billion), Revenue remains vigilant and takes appropriate action where illicit activity is detected. This action is informed by, inter alia, intelligence on criminal activity and risk-based examination of commercial traffic and stock in retail premises. Key results of this activity include the seizure of almost 200,000 litres of beer, believed to be associated with diversion fraud since September 2017, the uncovering in November 2017 of a large-scale counterfeit vodka production plant processing highly dangerous denatured industrial alcohol and the detention in June 2018 at Dublin Port of a container carrying a quantity of raw alcohol with the capacity to produce over 50,000 litres of illicit alcohol.