Gangs are scooping millions of euro a year with near impunity because of a dearth of policing resources on both sides of the border.

Irish and British politicians want a permanent cross-border task force of police and revenue officers established to combat booze and cigarette smuggling and fuel-laundering.

Criminal gangs are scooping millions of euro a year with near impunity because of a dearth of policing resources on both sides of the border, a report for the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly (BIPA) has claimed.

The report was prepared for the 50th anniversary of BIPA this week by members who toured border areas.

The politicians, including TDs (members of Parliament), Westminster MPs, and senators visited Police Service of Northern Ireland stations in Co. Armagh and Garda stations in Co. Louth. They were taken to up to a dozen uncovered fuel laundering operations.

Their report, launched in Dublin on Monday, called for a permanent task force made up of dedicated Garda and PSNI units, Revenue officials from both sides of the border and environmental agencies to combat the operations of the criminals.

The report called for a crackdown on crime lords and dissident Republicans who exploit the border regions and cause losses to the exchequer in Ireland of up to €575 million.

It said tougher laws must also be introduced to go after “phoenix” companies linked to smuggling, which evade prosecution by transferring assets into other companies or changing their directors.

The report also called for legislation to prevent filling stations prosecuted for selling illegal fuel reopening within weeks of conviction.

The committee that prepared the report under its chairman, Kerry Senator Paul Coghlan, said it was particularly alarmed by the widespread presence of laundering plants and filling stations selling illegal diesel and petrol in border regions.

Coghlan described it as a huge issue impacting on the lives of citizens and small businesses on both sides of the border.