Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs claim that one of the results of petrol and diesel prices hitting record levels, is that “fuel crime has become big business”.
Narita Bahra’s client was a businessman, charged alongside ten co-defendants with being knowingly involved in a conspiracy to evade excise duty on diesel fuel on a large national scale. The HMRC investigation of these allegations spanned over four years.
Laundering involved red diesel, meant for use by agricultural and other off-road vehicles. To help farmers, the tax on this type of fuel is much lower than on regular diesel and it’s dyed red and treated with chemicals so that it can be easily detected.
The prosecution alleged that red diesel was stolen in huge quantities and then a variety of methods were deployed to launder, eradicate the red dye and other chemical markers, including filtering the coloured fuel through charcoal or more bizarrely cat litter. The removal of the colour results in it looking to the untrained eye as regular diesel. It is alleged that it was sold on businesses who were willing to turn a blind eye.
Plants have been uncovered in mainland Britain and officials had intercepted illegal shipments.
The case collapsed due to disclosure failings. The trial judge refused to grant the prosecution further time to remedy the identified material failings in the disclosure exercise. The Prosecution offered no evidence against Narita’s client.