Excise and Tax Fraud

Tobacco Fraud

Tobacco smuggling into Northern Ireland is carried out both on a commercial scale by organised crime gangs and on a smaller scale by teams of smugglers or opportunistic individuals.  Counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco may be particularly attractive to those on lower incomes and young people. They are often manufactured in unregulated conditions and are not subject to any quality controls so consumers have no idea what they are actually smoking.  "Illicit whites" are cigarettes produced entirely independantly of the International Tobacco Manufacturers and effectively are brands manufactured specifically for smuggling. The demand for "illicit whites" is increasing as they are seen as a cheap alternative to inferior quality counterfeit brands.

Alcohol Fraud

Counterfeit alcohol continues to be found sporadically, particularly in border regions. In the past this type of product has been found locally to include dangerously high levels of toxic chemicals. Links have been seen between the supply of counterfeit tobacco and counterfeit alcohol to both loyalist and republican paramilitary groups, including dissident republican groups.

Oils Fraud

Over the past 12 months HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have closed down and dismantled 38 large scale fuel laundering plants in Northern Ireland and seized 574,000 litres of illegal fuel. There has been a general trend towards larger and more sophisticated oils laundering plants. This suggests an industrialisation of the process as organised criminal groups attempt to maximise their profits. This is also reflected in the move toward the production, distribution and retail of illegal fuel being controlled by the same crime gangs. and the tendency for illegal fuel to be retailed at or near supermarket prices rather than at markedly lower levels. This makes it more difficult for consumers to tell what they are buying and vastly increases the profit margins of the fraud.

Fuel laundering results in large quantities of waste product which must be disposed of by the launders. This waste product will usually be dumped or buried and causes significant environmental damage. The waste can contaminate surrounding land as well as waterways and can lead to extensive clean-up costs.

The UK and Ireland governments introduced a new fuel marker for rebated fuels on 1st April 2015. This new marker is designed to be highly resistant to laundering techniques.