Jim Allister: Only one person jailed for fuel smuggling since 2011
TRADITIONAL Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister has said not enough is being done to clamp down on fuel smuggling after figures he obtained showed only one person had been jailed since 2011 in connection with the offence.
Mr Allister said he believed a "blind eye" was being turned to the issue because of the involvement of paramilitaries.
“Statistics which I have obtained from the Justice Minister on fuel laundering cases since 2011 show this to be clearly the case," he said. "There have been 56 convictions of offences since 2011 but only one has resulted in a custodial sentence. We need stern, severe sentencing guidelines and a willingness to deal through deterrent sentences with those brought before the courts.
“This is a scandal and the more it goes on the more one is confirmed in the view that it is part of the pernicious arrangement that attends to the peace process."
He said it had been proven fuel smuggling was lining the pockets of paramilitaries.
“It is well known that fuel laundering is a major source of income for paramilitary organisations with the issue being highlighted in the recent report produced by the Panel on Paramilitaries. It has long been the suspicion of many that because of this nexus between proscribed organisations and the problem of fuel laundering there has been a tendency on the part of the authorities to be unduly lenient or worse still turn a blind eye to the problem.
“It is no coincidence that south Armagh is synonymous with the scourge of fuel laundering. South Armagh used to be called "bandit country" but it could be called "blind-eye country" because it is inconceivable that, with the industrial scale of fuel smuggling and laundering that has been going on in south Armagh, it is beyond the authorities to bring to justice those who have been perpetrating this criminality for years.
“If a farmer, in his single farm payment claim, gets something wrong about a field boundary, the satellites will catch him out. But you can run riot with fuel laundering and no one sees, no one hears and no one is brought to meaningful justice. How many times have we heard of seizures and of nobody being there?"