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Irish and British politicians call for crackdown to curb illicit cross border trade

Added 23-Feb-2015

A Committee of Irish and British politicians has this morning called more determined action north and south of the border to eliminate the activities of organised crime gangs involved with cross-border illicit trade, including the establishment of a a permanent, full time multidisciplinary task force.

In a report launched today Monday 23 February, Committee A of the British Irish Parliamentary says that more serious penalties, including more lengthy custodial sentences for illicit trade activities, in order to make the island of Ireland a more difficult place for criminal gangs to operate.

The report, entitled Cross-border Police Cooperation and Illicit Trade was adopted at the 50th BIPA plenary session, taking place over the course of today and tomorrow in the Seanad chamber.

The Committee is particularly alarmed by the evidence of the widespread presence of fuel laundering plants and filling stations selling illicit fuel in border regions and further afield. Consequently, the Report stresses that those involved must not be allowed to continue this illegal activity and every possible effort must be made by law enforcement authorities in their collaborative efforts to shut down these operations, despite the difficulties in policing some of these areas.

Other recommendations include that:

  • Legislation be updated to ensure operators of filling stations, who are successfully prosecuted for selling laundered/illegal fuel, cannot simply reopen again after a few weeks, as happens at present;
  • On-the-spot fines be introduced for consumers found to have knowingly purchased illicit commodities.
  • Gaps in enforcement where gains could be made by targeted investment and increased funding be identified.

The Chair of Committee A Senator Paul Coghlan says: “Illicit cross-border trade, particularly in fuel and cigarette smuggling, is a huge issue impacting on the lives of citizens and small businesses on both sides of the border. This report focuses on how the PSNI and An Garda Síochána, and the Northern Ireland Executive, Irish Government and other law enforcement agencies, work together, particularly in light of the devolution of policing and justice powers and the launch of the Cross-Border Policing Strategy in 2010. The Committee was hugely encouraged by the on-going positive cooperation in this area and believes that its series of practical recommendations, if implemented, can build on this good work.

“On behalf of the Committee, I wish to extend my sincere thanks to those who assisted with this inquiry and through a series of meetings in Dublin, Belfast, Armagh and Louth. We are particularly indebted to Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD, Minister for Justice, David Ford MLA, the Garda Commissioner, Nóirín O’Sullivan; the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), George Hamilton; members of An Garda Síochána and the PSNI; the Chief Executives of Monaghan, Louth and Donegal County Councils; Members of the PSNI in Crossmaglen and members of an Garda Síochána in Dundalk; representatives Retailers Against Smuggling and the Petrol Retailer’s Association; and from Grant Thornton Ireland who produce an annual report on the fiscal losses incurred as a result of illicit trade.”

Access report.

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Notes to eds:

About the Assembly

The Assembly's mission is to promote co-operation between political representatives in Britain and Ireland for the benefit of the people they represent. BIPA’s membership includes representatives from the UK Parliament, the Houses of the Oireachtas, the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Welsh Assembly, the High Court of Tynwald (Isle of Man) and the States of Guernsey and Jersey.

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