DETECTIVES from the PSNI’s Organised Crime Unit were today involved in a ‘significant’ multi-agency operation at Larne and Belfast ports searching lorries transporting goods from Scotland and England.
Together with officers from the Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Unit, Roads Policing, Dogs Unit and Neighbourhood Policing Team as well as partners from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, Border Force, Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and Harbour Police, a total of 46 heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) were stop checked, 20 of which were searched.
Detective Inspector Richard Thornton, from the Organised Crime Unit, said: “Today’s operation involved many partners conducting searches of HGVs disembarking from ferries travelling into Larne and Belfast Ports from Scotland and England. This is the first activity of its kind in Northern Ireland focusing on hauliers who are involved in criminality.
“It is important to note that the vast majority of hauliers and HGV drivers are law abiding, and indeed the haulage industry is a vital part of our economy. However, a small number of hauliers are involved in organised criminality such as the smuggling of drugs, illegal cigarettes, human trafficking and other offences.
“Today’s search operation resulted in a vehicle being seized by HMRC for suspected use of illegal fuel. The DVLA Enforcement Team also set up a checkpoint in Belfast port and stopped 7 HGVs. As a result 28 offences were detected and 2 fixed penalty notices issued, there were 2 immediate prohibitions and 1 defect notice issued.
“This operation is not linked to the tragic events in Essex, but is in response to information from genuine hauliers, who often work under difficult economic circumstances and operate under small profit margins, who have told police they are aware of criminal activities taking place within the industry.
“Those involved use the guise of legitimate work as cover for their criminal activities and in so doing undercut the price for transporting goods and affect the livelihoods of legitimate hauliers.
“I hope today’s search operation sends a clear message to haulage firms that, together with our partners, we will continue to take action to disrupt any illegal smuggling and other criminal activities.
“I would appeal to local hauliers to report anyone within the industry who they are concerned are involved in criminality by phoning 101 or by using the confidential Crimestoppers Number 0800 555111.”