A new technology to catch drivers using illegal fuel has been unveiled.
The hi-tech equipment has been introduced to allow officers to test vehicles for the presence of a new fuel marker.
It was introduced in April and was expected to make rebated fuel, including off-road diesel commonly known as “red diesel” in the UK, much harder for fraudsters to launder, i.e. remove the marker from it and sell at a profit.
The use of rebated fuel is strictly limited to some industries, including agriculture and construction and tax is charged at a much lesser rate.
The test of the new marker was previosly completed at a laboratory, leading to a delay in identifying illicit fuel and further action being taken, according to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
The new equipment will now be installed in 49 HMRC Road Fuel Testing Unit vehicles throughout the UK. It will be used to analyse fuel samples taken at the roadside and retail premises, starting in Northern Ireland.
Illegal diesel makes up 13% of the market share of diesel in Northern Ireland and costs the taxpayer around £80 million every year, HMRC added.
Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Damian Hinds, said: “At a time when the government’s priority is cutting the deficit, it is unacceptable that criminals are cheating the system. The new marker and testing equipment are part of the significant investment we have made in HMRC to tackle avoidance, evasion and fraud to make sure all businesses and individuals contribute to the tax revenue that is used to fund vital public services.”