A West Yorkshire oil dealer has been sent to prison for three and a half years for selling potentially harmful illegally laundered fuel to unknowing customers.
A HMRC investigation found that Anthony Knight of Styes Lane, Sowerby Bridge, operated an illegal fuel-laundering plant capable of evading £1.6m in duty a year. The fraud was discovered when officers visited his business, Manor Oil Company, on Buckstones Road, Oldham, in August 2016, and found the laundering plant in an outbuilding.
Knight claimed the unit was rented by a man named Tom, but investigations revealed this was not the truth. Storage tanks, equipment and 2,500 litres of red diesel were seized from the unit.
Officers also found 24 tonnes of silica gel, which was used to strip the government markers from the diesel. Suspicions were raised after HMRC’s Road Fuel Testing Unit visited several of Knight’s customers and found traces of the laundered fuel.
The investigation revealed that the laundering plant was capable of evading £1.68m-worth of duty over a 300-day period and the plant set up was estimated to be worth £135,000. Knight was charged with being knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of any duty chargeable between 1 January 2016 and 4 August 2016.
He admitted excise fraud at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court on 9 May, but denied operating the plant, and claimed it was not active when discovered. At a hearing on 4 June, the court ruled Knight was culpable for the laundering plant.
He was sentenced at the same court on 4 July, by judge Driver and was disqualified from being a company director for five years. Proceedings are also under way to recover the lost duty.
Timothy Atkins, assistant director, fraud investigation service, HMRC, said Knight had conned his customers into buying illegal fuel. “He thought he could get away with it. He was wrong, and now he is paying the price behind bars.”