A WEST Yorkshire oil dealer has been jailed for three and a half years for selling potentially harmful illegally laundered fuel to unsuspecting customers.
Anthony Knight, of Styes Lane, Sowerby Bridge, operated an illegal fuel laundering plant capable of evading £1.6 million in duty a year, an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) revealed.
The fraud was uncovered when officers visited his business, Manor Oil Company Ltd, in Buckstones Road, Oldham, in August 2016 and found the laundering plant, pictured above, in an outbuilding. Knight told HMRC the unit was rented by a man named Tom, but investigations revealed that was a lie.
Storage tanks, equipment and 2,500 litres of red diesel were seized from the unit. Officers also found 24 tonnes of silica gel, which is used to strip the government markers from the diesel. A forensic expert estimated the silica gel would be able to launder approximately one million litres of red diesel.
Suspicions were raised after HMRC’s Road Fuel Testing Unit visited a number of Knight’s customers and discovered traces of the laundered fuel.
Investigations found the laundering plant was capable of evading £1.68m in duty over a 300-day period. The plant set-up was estimated to be worth £135,000.
Knight, 60, admitted excise fraud at Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester in May but denied operating the plant, and claimed the plant wasn’t active when discovered. However, at a trial of issue hearing last month, the court ruled that he was fully culpable for the laundering plant.
At the same court yesterday, Knight was sentenced to three and a half years in prison and was also disqualified from being a company director for five years.
Proceedings are under way to recover the lost duty.
After the case, Timothy Atkins, assistant director of HMRC’s fraud investigation service, said: ‘Knight conned his customers into buying illegal fuel which can damage car engines. He stole money which should have been used to fund our public services. He thought he could get away with it but he was wrong, and now he is paying the price behind bars.
‘Fuel fraud costs millions of pounds in lost duty every year and it creates an uneven playing field for honest businesses. Anyone with information about tax fraud should report it to HMRC online or contact our fraud hotline on 0800 788 887.’
Main image via pictures supplied by HMRC
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