A TOTAL of nine people were arrested yesterday (Wednesday, July 23) for their involvement in a suspected £3million fuel fraud after officers swooped on a number of premises, including in Somerset.

Seven men and two women across southern England were taken in for questioning by HM Revenue and Customs officers and later released on bail pending further enquiries.

Around 170 HMRC officers, assisted by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency and Sussex and Hampshire Police, searched 12 residential premises, five business premises and two petrol stations in East and West Sussex, Kent, Essex, Hampshire and Somerset.

HMRC has declined to give the exact locations of any of the premises.

The ongoing investigation centres on the suspected illegal purchase and sale of rebated kerosene and biofuel to motorists as duty-paid road diesel.

It is believed the fraud is worth an estimated £3million in unpaid excise duty and VAT.

David Margree, HMRC’s assistant director, criminal investigation, said: “Motorists need to be aware that using illicit fuel can damage and destroy vehicle engines, has a detrimental effect on legitimate fuel traders and deprives the government of money used to fund public services.

“Anyone with information about fuel fraud or people involved in the sale, storage or distribution of illicit fuel can contact the Customs hotline on 0800-595000.”