Over a dozen people belonging to a criminal organisation known to police for fabricating and selling fake red diesel in the province of Limburg have been arrested and the operation dismantled, and several gas stations in the area have been shut down.
The criminal network, active throughout the Belgian province, bleached heating oil and sold it as fuel, in a large-scale fraud operation worth an estimated tens of millions of euros every year.
Authorities conducted over twenty searches on Wednesday and Thursday, leading to the arrest of 14 individuals and the seizing of a number of vehicles and several incriminating documents.
The police operation was carried out by federal customs, excise and law enforcement agents and provincial police units from Limburg.
The organisation, prosecuted for the same crimes in 2014 and 2017, is thought to operate under the leadership of a man identified as S.M.
S.M. is currently wanted by the authorities and thought to be hiding out in Turkey, according to local media.
Several gas stations thought to be linked to the network were shut down and two factories —one in Gosselies, near Charleroi and another in Balen, near Antwerp— where authorities believed the heating oil was bleached, are being investigated.
The fourteen people arrested are expected to appear before a judge on Friday, and reports say that the Limburg public prosecutor office is preparing an extradition request for S.M.