An oil dealer who operated an illegal fuel laundering plant with the capacity to evade £1.6m a year in duty, has been jailed for three-and-a-half years.
Storage tanks, equipment and 2,500 litres of illegal “red diesel” were seized by customs investigators from a unit run by Anthony Knight, 60, of Sowerby Bridge. Officers also found 24 tonnes of silica gel, which is used to strip the government markers from diesel. A forensic expert told a court the gel would be able to launder about 1m litres of diesel.
The plant, in Oldham, was estimated to be worth £135,000.
Suspicions were raised after visits to some of Knight’s customers revealed traces of the laundered fuel.
Timothy Atkins, of HMRC’s fraud investigation service, said: “Knight conned his customers into buying illegal fuel which can damage car engines. He thought he could get away with it. He stole money which should have been used to fund our public services.
“Fuel fraud costs millions of pounds in lost duty every year and it creates an uneven playing field for honest businesses.”
At Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester, Knight admitted excise fraud but denied operating the plant, and claimed it was inactive when it had been discovered. He was ruled to have been fully culpable at a trial of issue hearing and was disqualified for five years from being a company director. Proceedings are under way to recover the lost duty.