Co Armagh businessman receives suspended jail term for supplying fuel launderers

Bleaching earth seized at Belfast docks
Bleaching earth seized at Belfast docks

A County Armagh businessman who imported 220 tonnes of bleaching earth, knowing it was to be used for laundering diesel, has been sentenced after an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Liam Muldoon from Castle View, Jonesborough, was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for two years, when he appeared at Belfast Crown Court on Friday.

Bleaching earth seized at Belfast docks

Bleaching earth seized at Belfast docks

He pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to one charge of, being knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of excise duty by taking preparatory steps contrary to Section 170B of CEMA 1979.

In March 2013 officers from Border Force at Belfast docks referred a freight container, with more than a 1,000 bags of bleaching earth inside, to HMRC for investigation.

Muldoon, 42, was the owner of Automation Security Systems Ltd, an electrical installation company, the delivery address for the container.

HMRC investigators discovered that Muldoon had imported 11 containers of bleaching earth between December 2011 and March 2013, which he didn’t declare in his VAT returns to avoid paying more than £20,000 in tax.

Steve Tracey, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “When we interviewed Muldoon he said that he had hoped to double his money by selling the bleaching earth. In pleading guilty, he admitted that he sold the bleaching earth knowing that some of it would be used to launder fuel. So although not directly involved in the laundering process, Muldoon was complicit in the fraud.

“If you know of anyone committing tax fraud please report them by calling our 24 hour hotline on 0800 59 5000.”

It’s estimated that 220 tons of bleaching earth could launder 16.5 million litres of red diesel, potentially evading over £9.5 million in lost duty and taxes.