The Landrover Defender owned by Moyle Ulster Unionist Party councillor Willie Graham, was seized at the side of a country road by police officers after they became suspicious earlier this year. It was checked during a police operation at Carnbore Road, near Bushmills, on April 24. Although the ‘ road fuel operation ‘ was carried out by the PSNI, details of the seizure were later passed on to customs officials. During a meeting of Moyle District Council last month, independent councillor Padraig McShane accused an unnamed council colleague of claiming travel expenses while running their vehicle on illegal fuel. When asked about the allegations by The Irish News in June this year Mr Graham denied he was caught using illegal fuel. ” It’s only a rumour. There’s no truth in it,” he said.
When contacted again last night, he declined to elaborate. ” You print it and you can stand over it,” he said. ” Go ahead that’s fine.” According to the law vehicles driven on public roads must use heavily taxed clear diesel bought at forecourt petrol pumps. Illegal fuels include red diesel used in private and commercial vehicles on public roads, clear diesel mixed with home heating oil and ‘ washed ‘ diesel – when the red dye is removed from agricultural diesel and resold as clear. Red diesel, used mainly in farm and construction machinery, is taxed less heavily and costs roughly 50p a litre less than its clear counterpart. Private and commercial drivers found to be using red diesel or other illegal fuels face having their vehicle seized and heavy fines imposed. First time offenders can expect to have to pay £500 to have their vehicle returned.
A spokesman for Revenue and Customs said they can’t comment on individual cases. However, he said : ” People who use rebated fuel illegally are abusing a tax system set up to support and reduce the burden on industries such as agriculture. It isn’t about cheating the government out of a few pounds – with £650 million lost to illicit diesel in Great Britain each year – It’s about cheating themselves and their neighbours out of vital founding for public services.” A spokesman for the PSNI confirmed the seizure of the vehicle. ” Police seized a vehicle in the Carnbore Road area of Bushmills on Tuesday 24th April on suspicion of using illegal fuel. The vehicle was taken to Coleraine PSNI station and HM Customs and Excise officers notified,” he said. A spokesman for the UUP said : ” Councillor Graham is entitled to a fair hearing. Obviously as a responsible political party we support the rule of law.”
WITH MANY THANKS TO : CONNIA YOUNG, IRISH NEWS.