By Frances Toner
Gardaí in Mayo are investigating 86 complaints of suspected petrol contamination, received in the past four months, and are now working with Revenue’s Customs Service to have samples analysed in the State Laboratory.
While there have been no arrests or file sent to the DPP yet on the matter, the Revenue Commissioners are taking action and will be pursuing prosecutions against offenders where possible, confirmed Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald.
Minister Fitzgerald was responding to a parliamentary question from Fine Gael’s Deputy Michelle Mulherin.
The petrol stretching issue was described earlier this month by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan as a ‘matter of serious concern’.
Petrol stretching is an illegal practice involving adding a cheaper component, such as kerosene, to fuel to boost profits.
Gardaí in Mayo received the first complaint relating to petrol stretching in June of this year. A smattering of complaints followed in July and August but the issue exploded in September with 75 complaints received in that month alone.
Last month, hundreds of people attended a public meeting on petrol stretching in the Gateway Hotel, Swinford, with many complaining of car engines destroyed by contaminated fuel.
Deputy Mulherin has been raising the matter at a national level and in the Dáil.
She is calling for full cooperation and a pooling of resources between Customs and Excise and the gardaí in Mayo to investigate all complaints and “bring the culprits to justice”.
Deputy Mulherin said the sheer volume of cases in Mayo has caused “a crisis in consumer confidence”.
“This even has ramifications for filling stations selling legitimate fuel,” she pointed out.
Deputy Mulherin is calling for action to restore confidence in the fuel sector, including spot checks on fuel trucks and supports for filling station operators to check tankers of petrol for contamination.
She also called on any members of the public who may have information to help further the Garda investigation to contact their local station.
Minister Noonan also urged people to report any suspicions they have concerning adulterated petrol to Revenue.
He said the practice poses risks to the Exchequer, threatens legitimate businesses and damages the vehicles of unsuspecting purchasers of adulterated fuel.