The threat that fuel fraud and the illicit tobacco trade pose to legitimate business, to consumers and the Exchequer is clear and I am assured by Revenue that combating such criminality continues to be a priority for them.
Steps taken by Revenue to combat the illegal fuel trade include the introduction of stringent supply chain controls and reporting requirements, and a rigorous programme of enforcement action. In addition, Revenue and 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. Revenue have also conducted random National Sampling Programmes in the years 2016 to 2019, to assess the extent of fuel laundering. The industry view is that the actions taken have been successful in curtailing fuel fraud and the results of Revenue’s sampling programmes support this view.
With regard to solid fuel, I indicated in a recent PQ response that I am advised that Revenue is in contact at present with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment to discuss the effectiveness of the regulatory regime for solid fuel, for which that Department has responsibility, and to explore how Revenue could support the Department to improve matters in light of continuing concerns that solid fuel sourced from Northern Ireland is getting onto the market here. I understand that contacts are ongoing with a view to undertaking a number of joint operations and to explore the scope for follow up action by Revenue in relation to persons found to be in breach of environmental regulations.
Revenue acts against all aspects of the illegal tobacco trade, and uses a combination of risk analysis, profiling and intelligence, and risk-based screening of cargo, vehicles, baggage and postal packages to intercept illicit products. Action after importation includes checks at retail outlets, markets and private and commercial premises.
Revenue and An Garda Síochána collaborate closely in acting against fuel and tobacco crime, and also cooperate closely with their counterparts in Northern Ireland, in the framework of the North-South Joint Agency Task Force. This cooperation plays a key role in targeting the organised crime groups responsible for much of this criminality, who operate across jurisdictions. Recent successes include the detection of an illegal cigarette factory in Jenkinstown, Co. Louth, in March 2018, as well as the detection of a second cigarette factory in Knockbridge, Co. Louth, in March 2019.
I am satisfied that Revenue’s work against fuel fraud and the illicit tobacco trade has achieved a considerable level of success. For my part, I will fully consider any additional proposals for legislative change that may be brought forward by Revenue which would enhance its capacity to deal effectively with fraud and criminality in these areas.