AN illegal diesel processing plant, capable of evading £1.4million in duty, has been dismantled after being discovered in Sunderland.
The search on the commercial premises in the city centre was carried during the night and early hours by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
HMRC officials said the plant had the potential to produce 2.5million litres of illicit fuel a year, with an illegal filling station also uncovered during the strike.
Officers, accompanied by Northumbria police, searched the property and believe the station was being used to sell the diesel to the public as legitimate road fuel.
No arrests have been made and HMRC has not revealed the location of the premises.
Pat Curtis, national oils co-ordinator for HMRC, said: “Fuel laundering is a dangerous activity.
“We believe that the fuel was stored, laundered and sold from this property, without any safety precautions, endangering any motorist buying fuel there.
“Motorists may think buying illicit fuel is a bargain, but you have no idea what you’re getting, and you can be sure that you are lining the pockets of criminals.
“We ask anyone with information about this type of activity to contact us on the Customs’ Hotline on 0800 59 5000.”
Forecourt pumps, 3,200 litres of suspected laundered fuel, tanks and equipment were seized during the operation.
Investigations are continuing.
Anyone with information which could help with the inquiry can contact the Customs Hotline via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or can call 0800 595 000, with the line open 24 hours.
HMRC says diesel laundering waste is often dumped in the countryside or next to roads, causing pollution to land or waterways, with sites in agricultural areas or forests often chosen for their remoteness.
Laundered fuel is red or green diesel, which has been filtered through chemicals or acids to remove the Government marker.
The chemicals and acids remain in the fuel and this damages fuel pumps in diesel cars.