Nine people sentenced for their role in £2.6 million fuel laundering operation

Robert Clarke and Mark Pollock who were jailed for their part in the operation
Robert Clarke and Mark Pollock who were jailed for their part in the operation

Nine people, including the owner of a Belfast-based fuel supply company, have been sentenced for their part in the laundering, concealing and distribution of an estimated 4.5million litres of red diesel.

In a crime worth over £2.6 million in lost duty and taxes the gang, headed by Robert Clarke (65), the owner of Clarke Fuels based on the Shankill Road, and Mark Pollock (37), laundered millions of litres of red diesel for sale as legitimate road fuel to unsuspecting motorists.

Cash seized in the operation

Cash seized in the operation

Clarke from Dundrod Road, Crumlin, and Pollock from Lyndhurst Grove, Belfast, were jailed when they appeared at Laganside Crown Court yesterday (Monday).

HMRC began investigating the gang in 2010 and over the next two years traced their illegal laundering activities, false paperwork trails and fuel distribution network, revealing a sophisticated organised crime network.

As part of the investigation into the gang HMRC officers carried out searches of 13 commercial and private premises in Belfast and Co Antrim in June 2011 uncovering a mobile laundering plant, seizing more than £285,000 in cash and 74,000 litres of illicit fuel.

The investigation uncovered how Clarke had used his business to purchase huge quantities of red diesel, which was then laundered. Pollock oversaw the fraud, working with others to launder the fuel, dispose of the waste and hide the fraud behind a false paper trail.

HMRC launched the operation in 2010

HMRC launched the operation in 2010

The nine people involved in what Judge Millar called “a professional smuggling organisation” were:

1. Robert Clarke (DOB 26/12/1951) from Dundrod Road, Crumlin.

He was given a two years prison sentence. Clarke will serve 12 months in custody, the second year of his sentence will be served on licence. He pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing in November 2016 to the fraudulent evasion of Excise Duty contrary to Section 170 of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.

2. Mark Pollock (DOB 28/01/1979), from Lyndhurst Grove, Belfast.

Waste for transport used during the fuel laundering operation

Waste for transport used during the fuel laundering operation

He was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison. Pollock will serve 16 months in custody and the remaining 16 months on licence. He pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing in November 2016 to the fraudulent evasion of Excise Duty contrary to Section 170 of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 and possession of criminal property, contrary to S329(1) of the Proceeds Of Crime Act 2002.

3. Billy George (DOB 08/07/1969) from Glenwood View, Poleglass, Dunmurry.

He was involved in the day-to-day fuel laundering activities including transportation of the laundered fuel.

He was sentenced to two and a half years in prison, suspended for three years, when he appeared at Laganside Crown Court on Tuesday October 4, 2016. He pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing in September 2016 to the fraudulent evasion of Excise Duty contrary to Section 170 of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.

4. Paul Keenan (DOB 21/12/1968) from Creeslough Park, Belfast.

He was involved in the day-to-day fuel laundering activities including transportation of the laundered fuel.

He was sentenced to two and a half years in prison, suspended for three years, when he appeared at Laganside Crown Court on Monday October 3, 2016. He pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing in September 2016 to the fraudulent evasion of Excise Duty contrary to Section 170 of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.

5. Rachel McKeown (DOB 15/01/1970) from Carntogher Road, Lisburn

As office clerk, she aided in giving the conspiracy a veneer of legitimacy by creating false accounts and paperwork in an attempt to hide the true destination of the red diesel purchased by Clarke Fuels.

She was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years, when she appeared at Laganside Crown Court on Monday June 27, 2016. McKeown pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing in June 2016 to having knowingly or recklessly made or signed declarations, on documents, contrary to section 167(1)(a) of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.

6. Alan McVeigh (DOB 15/11/1982) from Forthriver way, Belfast.

He operated a filing station on the Crumlin road on behalf of the gang and was selling laundered fuel as legitimate road diesel.

He was sentenced to two and a half years in prison, suspended for three years, when he appeared at Laganside Crown Court on Monday October 3, 2016. On June 21, 2011 HMRC officers entered a filling station in Belfast and carried out tests on the fuel. The road diesel on sale was found to be laundered red diesel. Alan McVeigh was arrested and interviewed. He pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing in September to the fraudulent evasion of Excise Duty contrary to Section 170 of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.

7. Tracey O’Neill (DOB 24/09/1976) from Gortgonis Road, Coalisland, Dungannon.

As bookkeeper, she aided in giving the conspiracy a veneer of legitimacy by creating false accounts and paperwork in an attempt to hide the true destination of the red diesel purchased by Clarke Fuels.

She was sentenced to two and a half years in prison, suspended for three years, when she appeared at Laganside Crown Court on Friday, October 7, 2016. She pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing in September 2016 to the fraudulent evasion of Excise Duty contrary to Section 170 of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.

8. Derek Stevenson (DOB 01/11/1961) from Gortnagallon Road, Crumlin.

He provided a shed at his home in the Gortnagallon Road area to launder the red diesel.

He was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for three years, when he appeared at Laganside Crown Court on Monday October 3 2016. He pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing in April 2016 to the fraudulent evasion of Excise Duty contrary to Section 170 of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.

9. Ian Thompson (DOB 16/03/1959) from Ballykennedy Road, Crumlin.

He provided a site for laundering fuel at Ballykennedy, Road Crumlin and assisted in the disposal of laundered waste.

He was sentenced to a total of eleven years in prison, suspended for three years, when he appeared at Laganside Crown Court on Monday October 3, 2016. He pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing in September 2016 to: one charge of fraudulent evasion of Excise Duty contrary to Section 170 of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979; two charges of fraudulent evasion or attempted evasion of excise duty and Value Added Tax chargeable on goods, contrary to section 170(2) of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979; and two charges under The Waste and Contaminated Land (Northern Ireland) Order 1997.