Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Further supplementary memorandum submitted by the Northern Ireland Office

  Thank you for your letter of 25 March to David Watkins, in which you requested a range of statistical information in preparation for the Committee's meeting with Jane Kennedy on 10 April. David has asked me to reply.

  Most of the information that you wanted is held by PSNI and Customs and it is their responsibility both to collate it and authorise its release. However, in the case of convictions, we discovered only when we received the police return that they do not keep records themselves and that we would have to approach the Court Service for them. Unfortunately, we have not been able to do that in the time available but we will continue to make efforts to get that information for the Committee.

  As far as operational successes are concerned, PSNI could only give a flavour in the time available, but I enclose what they have been able to provide. Unfortunately, in several cases, the information is either not available in the form you want through current crime recording systems (eg the quantity of assets used for production, transportation or sale of illegal goods) or cannot be extracted without in-depth research (eg the quantity of assets, such as firearms, used to facilitate organised crime). Most disappointingly for the Committee, I suspect, is the fact that the police did not use a definition of organised crime before the inception of the OCTF and so cannot provide a list of operational successes for the period 1 March 1999 to 30 September 2000.

  As for Customs, they tell us they provided the Committee with details of their operational activity in the two-day briefing session you spent in Belfast in February and in their formal evidence session with you in March. The enclosed note therefore simply includes further examples of Customs' operational activity in a Northern Ireland context.

  I am sorry that, given the short notice, combined with the Easter break, it has not proved possible for either the police or Customs to produce the level and detail of information for which you asked. For example, the Central Statistics Branch of the PSNI collect figures by financial year and are currently working full-time on year-end figures for the Chief Constable's Annual Report so that material is simply not available as yet. Meanwhile, I know that Customs have a particular problem in relation to providing information for the financial year 2001-02.

  However, both the police and Customs have suggested that you might approach them direct, if you would like more information in slower time. So you may like to do so, when you have digested what is here.

8 April 2002


(a)  PSNI


Drugs  FY 2001-02

    —  Drugs Squad undertook 177 operations.

    —  These operations resulted in 81 arrests.

    —  The following amounts of drugs were seized.

Drug type
Amount seized
Street value
406 kgs
3 kgs
18.5 g
112,942 tablets
7 kgs

Counterfeit Goods

Type of goods
Number of items seized
Music CDs/MP3/cassettes
Playstation/Dreamcast games
Computer software
Perfume/sunglasses etc
Computers/video recorders/photocopiers

  Total value approximately £4,000,000.

Quantity of Cash Seized or Held in Bank Accounts

  In 2001, four restraint orders were applied for by PSNI. During the same period £318,771 was ordered to be confiscated.


Tobacco Smuggling

  As part of the national anti-tobacco smuggling strategy, enforcement activity in Northern Ireland has increased. Recent operational successes in Northern Ireland include:

    —  350,000 cigarettes in air passenger traffic from Tenerife;

    —  30 million cigarettes in two seizures by Republic of Ireland agencies following close co-operation between UK Customs and Republic of Ireland agencies;

    —  2 million cigarettes in freight traffic from Rotterdam;

    —  1.5 million cigarettes from two national strikeforce exercises targeting air passenger smuggling; and

    —  43 million cigarettes seized at Warrenpoint in freight traffic from Eastern Europe.

Hydrocarbon Oils Smuggling and Fraud

  Customs' enhancement of resources dedicated to tackling oils fraud has resulted in an increase in enforcement activity, including:

    —  sentencing of a man from County Armagh to two and a half years in prison for his role in a major fuel smuggling operation. His criminal activities resulted in the evasion of more than £6 million;

    —  a multi-agency operation in December 2001 involving agencies from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, during which 31 premises were searched and cash, computer hard drives, business records and assorted documentation were uplifted. Subsequently nine people were charged in connection with the evasion of road fuel excise duty and money laundering offences. These cases have yet to come to court;

    —  two laundering plants were broken up in South Armagh each with the capacity to produce up to five million litres of laundered red diesel each year worth £2.5 million in lost duty. Large quantities of fuel and acid were seized along with vehicles and laundering equipment.

  There is evidence that operational activity has stabilized and, indeed, that the position has slightly improved. Most important, the latest available figures show that deliveries of legal product to Northern Ireland have risen for the first time in five years.

Alcohol Fraud

  A facility for producing and bottling illegal spirit drinks based on industrial ethanol was found at Coalisland, Co Tyrone in September 2001. Officers located and dismantled the illicit bottling plant and seized equipment including a generator, compressors and a 30,000 litre tank. 26,300 litres of counterfeit "Vodka" and nearly 600,000 smuggled cigarettes were also seized. The discovery of 18 pallets of empty 1-litre bottles indicated that the product of this operation was intended for distribution to the public.

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