Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Department of Finance
Willie Penrose (Longford-Westmeath, Labour)
Question 184: To ask the Minister for Finance if, in the context of correspondence (details supplied), which was submitted to his Department, he will take steps to deal with the issue outlined therein; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8470/12]
Michael Noonan (Minister, Department of Finance; Limerick City, Fine Gael)
I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners, who are responsible for the collection of mineral oil tax and for tackling the illicit trade in mineral oil products, that they are acutely aware of the various illegal activities that lead to loss to the Exchequer of mineral oil tax. The most serious risk in this regard is the large scale laundering of markers from mineral oil (diesel), and the onward supply and sale of the laundered product as auto diesel. Marked mineral oil is subject to a reduced rate of mineral oil tax on condition that it is not used in road vehicles.
Revenue employs a broad range of compliance and enforcement strategies to detect and counteract illegal practices involving mineral oils. These include ongoing analysis of the nature and extent of the problem; development and sharing of intelligence with agencies on both sides of the border; the conduct of intelligence driven operations using covert surveillance to identify oil laundry locations; seizure of illicit product, laundering equipment and vehicles; physical sampling at road checkpoints; and prosecution of those involved in illegal activities in relation to mineral oils.
The Revenue Commissioners are conscious of a number of suspect retail outlets that have opened in various parts of the country and are taking steps to review their compliance with all aspects of the law. In the latter half of 2011 Revenue commenced a vigorous campaign targeting specific locations nationwide, with the intention of immediate closure of unlicensed outlets and the challenging of other instances of non-compliance. As part of this drive, warning letters have been issued to unlicensed retail outlets and a number of these have been effectively closed down by the actions of Revenue enforcement teams. This campaign is ongoing and Revenue is in the process of seizing illicit product and closing down a further number of unlicensed or otherwise illegal retail outlets.
The Finance Bill 2012 proposes to enhance the supervision and control of the mineral oils supply chain by requiring that, in future, any person dealing in marked mineral oils will have to be licensed by the Revenue Commissioners to do so. It is envisaged that this important change will be complemented by amendments to the Mineral Oil Tax Regulations that will lay down new requirements for the recording and reporting of transactions by mineral oil traders.
In 2011 nine oil laundries and 327,000 litres of laundered fuel were seized, together with nine oil tankers and twenty-nine other vehicles. Sixteen persons were arrested in the course of these operations and files have been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, who has to date issued directions to prosecute on indictment in respect of two of the cases. In addition to this a further 718,181 litres of illicit mineral oil has been seized, the large majority from retail outlets or in the course of delivery to such outlets. To date in 2012, a total of 53,530 litres of Mineral Oil has been seized from retail outlets.
The Revenue Commissioners would advise the public to purchase their diesel from known branded outlets, and where they have any concerns or suspicions about a particular outlet to report these to Revenue or the Irish Petrol Retailers Association, which represents the majority of legitimate retail outlets in the State, and who are working closely with the Revenue Commissioners to counteract the threat posed by the sale and distribution of illicit mineral oil.