I propose to take Questions Nos. 200, 201, 207, 208, 214 and 215 together.
I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners, who are responsible for tackling fuel fraud, that they are very aware of the risks posed to consumers' vehicles, legitimate businesses and the Exchequer by all forms of fuel fraud.
Revenue has, over the recent past, received reports from a variety of locations around the country of problems relating to petrol quality, and suggestions that these problems are attributable to petrol stretching. Revenue investigates all complaints of this kind and fuel samples are taken from filling stations and referred to the State Laboratory for analysis where the investigating officers have reason to suspect excise fraud. The State Laboratory makes use of an array of tests to determine whether an adulteration of the petrol has occurred.
Revenue are working closely as part of a joint investigation with An Garda Síochána into a concentration of complaints in Co. Mayo. As part of this investigation, I understand that An Garda Síochána are following up on the examination of engines and residue on engine parts from vehicles that are alleged to have been damaged as a result of suspect petrol.
A total of 79 samples of petrol from filling stations in the Border Midlands West Region have been referred for analysis to the State Laboratory following checks conducted from June 2014 to date. Conclusive results have been received in one case which confirms contamination through the presence of kerosene and a file is being prepared for prosecution in this case. A second positive contamination result is currently under investigation. To date, no evidence of fraudulently contaminated petrol has been found in the remaining samples.
As part of Revenue's normal operating procedures, fuel delivery tankers are challenged when encountered by Enforcement officers throughout the Border Midlands West Region. No cases of contaminated petrol have been identified as a result of these checks from June 2014 to date.
Motorists themselves should take care about where they source their petrol and should report any suspicions to Revenue. Revenue has recently launched a dedicated section of its website specifically dealing with the shadow economy and this includes a reporting facility for anyone who has information about shadow economy practices including the adulteration of fuel.
Petrol stretching is an offence under section 102 (1A) of the Finance Act 1999 and the Deputy can be assured that, if Revenue's investigations and the analysis of fuel samples by the State Laboratory indicate the presence of illegal stretching agents in petrol, Revenue will take action and pursue prosecutions against offenders where possible.
I am advised that it would not be feasible to undertake sampling and analysis of all petrol being delivered to filling stations. Checking for contamination will, however, be carried out at various stages of the fuel supply chain, on the basis of an evaluation of the risk of the likelihood of adulteration.
Information on the proportion of national retail sales of petrol accounted for by the filing stations from which samples have been taken is not readily available.
The Revenue Commissioners are a fully integrated tax and customs administration and it is not possible to disaggregate resources deployed exclusively at any given time on a particular element of their enforcement work. There are approximately 2,000 staff engaged on activities that are dedicated to targeting and confronting non-compliance. These front-line activities include anti-smuggling and anti-evasion, investigation and prosecution, audit, assurance checks, anti-avoidance, returns compliance and debt collection. I am advised that the current issues relating to petrol quality are being dealt with as a high priority and that the deployment of staff to address those issues, from within the existing resources available to Revenue, reflects that priority. I understand also that the Revenue Commissioners are working closely with the State Laboratory, which, in addition to analysing samples referred to it, is providing technical and scientific support for the on-going investigations.
The first point of contact for motorists whose vehicles may have been affected should be their motor insurance companies. Persons affected should also contact the point of purchase of the fuel. If they remain unsatisfied, they may have recourse to civil remedies and should seek legal advice.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission - a merger of the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency - has been established to enforce consumer protection law and may be able to provide assistance to those affected by petrol stretching who are seeking redress.