Dominic Littlewood reveals the extraordinary story of the secret consignment of fake oil drilling parts tracked down by trading standards officers in Peterborough.
Browse content similar to Episode 8. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
Welcome to a world where nothing is quite as it seems.
Welcome to Fake Britain.
Police officers - stay where you are.
You're under arrest.
In this series, I'll be investigating the criminals who make their money at your expense,
and I'm going to show you how not to get ripped off.
Today on Fake Britain:
We go on the trail of the diesel fakers.
We like to get in at HM Revenue and Customs.
We uncover the remarkable story of the secret consignment of fake oil drills bound for the Middle East.
I thought, "Could this really be happening in Peterborough?"
And find out what happens when mini-pig breeders start telling porkies.
Now, we all lock up our homes securely from intruders when we go out, but worryingly,
it's not just burglars who threaten our security.
You imagine going out for the day, returning home and finding that
somebody else had moved in, and it's all thanks to a fake landlord.
Angela Belalij and her family had moved out of their council house in East London for two weeks
while building work was being carried out.
We drove past the house, and noticed that there were curtains up.
I tried my key, so I could have a look at the house,
and I couldn't even use my own door key in the house.
And that's when one of the gentlemen that were living in there
opened the door and started shouting at me, asking who I was.
I explained, "This is my house, who are you?"
He started shouting that this is his house, he lives here, who am I, I've got no right to the house.
It was very confrontational, in my face shouting.
So my husband, Terry, came along to stop any confrontation
and basically stop the man being so aggressive towards me.
Angela was the victim of a fake landlord.
They'd broken into her home while she was away, changed the locks and rented it out to someone else.
They make a tidy profit by asking for cash deposits upfront.
In cases like this, often the new tenants are victims too,
as the deposits and rent they may lose can run into thousands of pounds.
Angela called the police and council,
but the tenants said they'd paid rent upfront, and refused to budge.
Because there is somebody in my property, it doesn't feel safe here
because they know who I am, they've seen me on several occasions.
And it is quite a violation.
It shouldn't feel like that no matter where you are, especially walking past your own home.
Angela had no option but to stay here in the temporary accommodation the council had moved her into.
You'll have to excuse the stairs.
We've not laid carpet because we don't know where we'll be living week to week.
And all because of a fake landlord.
We've got all the suitcases around the place because we can't put up wardrobes
because we don't know if we'd have to dismantle them within 24 hours if we had to move again.
So basically, we're living out of the suitcases.
Angela and her family miss their old home, and while the police and the council try to sort out the problem,
all they can do is wait.
But Angie's family weren't the only victims.
George Pope was their next door neighbour.
One day, he took his dog for its usual walk.
After falling ill, he stayed the night at a friend's house.
When he returned home, he found a fake landlord had visited his property too,
and illegal tenants had already moved in.
I came back here at midday on the Saturday.
I put my key in the door, and it didn't fit.
And suddenly I noticed outside the porch way loads of orange bags, and when I undone them, that's my stuff.
So I walked straight out and phoned the council's emergency service.
As I did, I saw a Lithuanian fella walking in the garden.
I said "Excuse me, what are you doing?"
He said "It's my home now. I paid a £3,000 deposit for six months".
I said "I've been here four and a half years, mate.
"It's my home and I pay the rent and bills."
So of course the police were called, and it took them six hours to come round.
What had looked like an isolated incident was in danger of taking over the whole neighbourhood.
The tenants alleged they had the right to live there.
They produced a letter from an estate agent,
saying the property had been rented out to them.
It was looking like George and Angie might never get back in.
I was very near to fainting. Yes, I did cry.
Knowing that other people were in the place...wasn't fair, wasn't right.
Traumatic and frightening.
After two weeks, the police eventually got hold of a copy of the letter.
They had a legal document, or a headed document, but it was fake. It was false.
But finding out the letter was faked was one thing, getting the tenants out was quite another.
They weren't answering the door for anybody.
The whole thing was extremely traumatic.
I was shaking and shivering a lot of the time.
Never again, please, anything like it.
Later, we'll find out what's waiting for George when he finally gets back home.
High fuel prices are something we've all had to cope with.
But some people aren't prepared to pay the full price. This engine is diesel,
and it's basically the same fuel that is used in heating and agricultural vehicles.
But when you use it in your car, the tax you pay is much higher,
which means there's money to be made out of a bit of criminal fakery.
This low tax industrial fuel is dyed red to stop people using it in their cars.
It stains the fuel tank and is a giveaway sign for inspectors.
Faking car diesel involves stripping this
telltale red dye out and selling the industrial diesel on at a profit.
Stuart Cruickshank is heading the Revenue and Customs team clamping down on the fakers.
The duty on fuel accounts for an awful lot of revenue for the Treasury.
I think it's about £25 billion a year.
So any attack on that is to be taken seriously.
It's estimated the fakery costs the taxpayer half a billion pounds a year.
But it's not just the cost to the public - Stuart has his own concerns as well.
Because this activity tends to be done covertly, the health and safety and the way it's done
will inevitably mean there are risks in actually trying to find it.
Sulphuric acid is often used to strip the dye out of red diesel,
and if it's mishandled, it can maim, blind or even kill.
A tip-off has brought the Revenue and Customs team to a truck stop in southeast England.
It's one of Britain's biggest fakes, and Stuart's got to rely on all his detective skills.
Stuart finds a concealed entrance.
And behind the garages, a series of storage sheds.
A number of large barrels are enough to raise his suspicions.
We've got a lot of containers, drums.
But while he's found some barrels, Stuart has to rely on his experience at Revenue and Customs to unearth
anywhere that might contain the factory.
We're going to break open that container
which we believe contains the laundering plant.
But if they can't find the red diesel laundering plant, they're going to be leaving with red faces.
What have we got?
Later, we'll find out if Stuart ever finds the fake diesel.
These cute little creatures have become the latest must-have pet.
They've got celebrity owners like David Beckham and Paris Hilton.
But some of those owners are going to be in for a bit of a shock,
because these perky little porkers have been faking it,
and they'll soon turn into an oversized surprise.
Introducing the perfect pint-sized pet - the mini pig, easy to look after and fun for all the family.
Margaret Smith's daughter Emma has always been a pig lover.
We had a potbellied pig years ago, and she'd always wanted another one,
but we wouldn't let her because it was quite a lot of work.
Then we saw these advertised, these micro mini-pigs that were supposed to stay tiny.
We got in touch with the breeder, and she said
"If you look on this video, you'll be able to pick one out", which we did.
He was like a little dog, really.
But after a while, things began to change.
The little pig they called Pigwig began to grow up...and up...
and up...and up.
We got in touch with the breeder when he was about ten months, and she said
she was sorry, it was a one-off, she bought him in and it was bad stock.
And I said "But you told us that you bred him", and she said, "I made a mistake,
"there were some that I bought in elsewhere, and it was just bad stock.
"You were one of the unlucky ones."
So, this is the sun lounge where Pigwig used to sleep, when we first had him.
When he was tiny it was absolutely fine.
We had a child's gate, and that kept him for a few months.
Then, all of a sudden, he just kept breaking it.
So we decided to invest in a stable door.
But, as you can see, he had a go at that as well.
And it wouldn't have been long before he would have ruined that.
Margaret's now built a pen for Pigwig in her garden.
But even this house made of wood is being tested by this not so little piggy.
He decided to go through that, rather than use the gate.
I've probably had the gate closed.
So, he just went through there.
So, that wire's not really strong enough, is it?
But as Pigwig's got porkier he's also become harder to handle
and a real danger if you get between him and his grub.
Pigwig wasn't as big as he is now.
He was probably only a little bit bigger than Percy.
And he'd broken into the shed and there was a sack of corn in there which he'd got.
And I stupidly went into the shed
and tried to take the sack of corn off him.
We had a bit of a tug-of-war in the shed.
He got hold of my trousers with his mouth and was sort of bashing around with his head.
His nose bashed me.
I was screaming in the shed because I was a bit frightened, because I wasn't sure what was going on.
It happened so quick, I wasn't sure if he'd bitten me.
It was just extremely painful.
I ended up with a whacking great nasty bruise.
But it was scary. And he was only half the size he is now.
So, obviously, if the same thing happened now,
it would be a lot scarier.
He'd probably do a lot more damage, I would imagine.
Pig breeder Wendy Scudamore
is alarmed that more and more people like Margaret
are buying mini-pigs which are nothing of the sort.
I think the worst cry for help that I've had from a person that purchased a micro-pig,
she'd got an entire boar pig, something that should never, never be sold as a pet.
It's living in her house, which is a small terraced house with a very small outside space.
This lady had eight children.
The boar had become sexually mature, he was lonely and he was aggressive.
He'd started to attack her children.
She was desperate, just didn't know what to do with the pig.
Didn't know where to turn for help.
Luckily for Emma and Margaret, they had the space to keep Pigwig.
It would have broken Emma's heart to have got rid of him.
I know it would. And mine, because you do get attached to them.
There's a lot of people that aren't in our position, they haven't got the space.
So they've either still got them indoors or...
I don't know what.
Or they have to get rid of them.
Later, we'll meet the couple from Essex who ran out of space for their so-called mini-pigs.
We started to realise that room wasn't going to be big enough. That's why we built our conservatory.
Across the country, fake landlords have been making money
by breaking into properties while the occupiers are away and renting them out.
Angie Belalij found illegal tenants in her council house
and she and her family had to stay in temporary accommodation.
The legal wrangling went on for so long her temporary move is now permanent.
And 72-year-old George Pope is another victim of the fake landlords.
But today is the day he finally gets his home back.
Hopefully it's a new start, a new life for a 72-year-old boy.
That's it, in. In we go, at long last.
But things aren't exactly how he left them.
This is where the washing machine was.
That's gone. They're ruthless, they don't care what they do.
They'd even taken his food.
Nothing in them.
And upstairs as well.
Bit slow, as only one and a half legs.
More worrying discoveries.
And it seems the tenants didn't care much about taking money from a pensioner.
One of my old wallets, which I won't find any more in because it only had £30 in that.
Nothing at all in it.
And his clothes as well.
Stone empty. That had my jeans in.
For George, the whole experience has been overwhelming.
Bit shaky again.
Glad to be home but, you know.
It's going to take a little while to settle in. But I'm home, I suppose.
So I've got to look at it that way, try and keep bright, happy and positive.
A tip-off has brought the Revenue and Customs team to a truck stop in southeast England.
They are on the hunt for fake diesel -
agricultural fuel that has had its red dye stripped out so it can be resold at a profit.
Well, we think it's in there. By a process of elimination...
But they're struggling to find the processing plant.
You can see that pipe, it comes straight through there...
-Round here and into next door...
It seems they're getting closer.
And when it comes to uncovering a criminal, Stuart and his team don't need a door key.
We like to get in - HM Revenue & Customs...
Bingo! Everything you need to make dodgy diesel on a massive scale.
Red agricultural fuel in there.
That then is distilled through these, we think it's probably acid, to take the red dye out.
The finished product then goes into here, which is now having
the red taken out, so you can't see whether it's red diesel or not.
And then through these pumps, these pipes here, it goes out here...
..to here. These are then filled up...
..and put in the van
This is quite a sophisticated, major business.
This is a lot of fuel.
And even more containers are nearby.
They look like they've been used to deliver the agricultural diesel to the plant.
So this is the storage here.
They buy red diesel and then it's processed through there,
and comes out into the vans, with the red dye taken out.
225 gallons in these.
So that's about 1,000 gallons of red diesel.
With four full canisters on the forecourt, this one load is worth over £5,000.
We're now going to test the theory.
Using their mobile laboratory, the tanks are found to contain red diesel.
The whole operation can now be shut down.
That's an excellent result, it's one of the biggest laundering plants I've seen.
And you'd never know it was here, would you?
Here at Fake Britain, we often think we might have seen it all, every kind of fakery you can imagine.
Then, all of a sudden, something comes along which surprises all of us.
Now, when you think of the oil industry, you probably think of...
Peterborough is a long way from the nearest oil field,
but was still the centre of one of the most remarkable pieces of counterfeiting in recent years.
Rob Edmunds was on duty at Trading Standards
when he got a call that was to turn into his biggest case ever.
He was told by a lawyer that a local company were dealing in vital parts
for multimillion pound oil rigs.
The problem was they were fake.
Initially, I thought, "I know nothing about the petro-chemical industry, but I better get as much information
"as possible and hopefully enlist the services of people that do."
It's something I've never come across in 20 years.
It wouldn't be one of the things
that I would readily associate with being counterfeited.
It was a world away from Rob's normal work tracking down dodgy DVDs and hooky hairdryers.
My first reaction was one of doubt.
It was an unusual area.
I thought, "Could this really be happening in Peterborough?"
But it was. Acting on the lawyer's tip-off, he went to a local industrial estate,
walked into a warehouse and immediately found what he was looking for.
We realised there was something amiss when you've got
parts sort of strewn across the warehouse floor.
You've got labels that
give an address in Texas,
as opposed to an address in Peterborough.
These fake precision parts were being passed off as made by National Oilwells in Texas.
They were destined to be used in complex oil drilling operations.
If they weren't up to standard, the results could have been a disaster for the drilling teams
and catastrophic for the environment.
The man responsible for the fakery was Adrian Belsen.
He didn't really say an awful lot. He was quite quiet.
It might have been the case that he didn't think that we had enough experience or knowledge in this area
to make an opinion and therefore notice that anything was wrong.
Initially, I asked Mr Belsen to open one of the pallets
and he cut open a blue polythene and showed me the parts.
Well, they were facing the wall, so there was no trademark evidence.
But with all his experience in Trading Standards, Rob could smell a rat.
Obviously, I asked him to open other pallets which were at a different angle, so I could see the trademark.
With the glue on the fake labels barely dry, Rob knew he had his man.
In this case, I think he was just stunned that we were actually there.
I don't think he appreciated the severity of the allegations.
Also seized were a number of computers, and the evidence soon began to mount up.
Orders for the construction of the parts in China as well as
orders for the finished drills worth hundreds of thousand of pounds.
Under caution, he did admit that he'd carried out this kind of
business transaction many times over the last 20 years.
It was a shock to me. I didn't think he'd actually admit it.
I suspected he may have carried out this type of business before,
but I didn't actually think he'd be so open in his answers.
Adrian Belsen appeared at Peterborough Crown Court
and was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in jail.
The difficult part was actually moving the stuff
because of its sheer size and weight.
Then we had to find suitable storage
to store 30 tonnes of parts for an oil drill.
30 tonnes of steel is not going to fit in your average Trading Standards evidence locker.
Instead, Rob found a secure location on the outskirts of Peterborough.
These were the examples of the labels that were also seized.
These were fixed to the outer packaging.
With the parts seized and safely locked away, experts were called in
to examine the haul. What they discovered was alarming.
There are differences between these parts and genuine parts,
So, from that, you appreciate they may not be
as reliable as the genuine part.
So there are possibly safety implications.
It isn't known how many fake parts Adrian Belsen
had sold over the years.
But the consequences of any of them failing at a critical moment
doesn't bear thinking about.
As for this haul of counterfeits,
Rob is making sure that they never fall into the wrong hands.
Weighing in at 30 tonnes, their scrap value should help recoup
some of Trading Standards' expenses.
Obviously it's satisfying, seeing this through to the bitter end.
We now know the parts have been totally destroyed and won't be used.
So, yeah, there's a great deal of satisfaction in that.
So-called mini-pigs are the latest must-have pets
and should stay under knee height.
But around the country, owners have been some facing big pig problems.
Bryn and Sadie from Essex were also dreaming of their own little piggy.
A lot of the photos you see, they are tiny. But the day we got them, we were surprised at how big they were.
As a young couple buying their first home, they weren't sure there would be enough space for them all.
We were worried at that point because we'd bought a house and were setting it up, we'd give them
a little room and we were starting to realise that maybe that room wasn't going to be big enough for them.
That's why we had to build our conservatory!
You want Daddy cuddles, don't you? You want Daddy cuddles, eh?!
Instead of sending their little piggies back to market,
Bryn and Sadie built their porkers a stylish sty.
This actually came from Bournemouth,
because this was the cheapest we could find.
We couldn't afford to spend too much.
We wanted them to be part of us still, and this was literally the best solution. But, erm,
I think it's a posh house for two pigs!
While Hector and Oliver are happy and healthy now,
it wasn't always the case.
Are you going to sit for Daddy? Sit, sit, sit. I know it's cold, isn't it?
Shortly after Bryn and Sadie got them,
one of the pigs became dangerously ill.
They did settle in very well.
It was just, obviously, we didn't have them long, and then, erm,
Hector actually got pneumonia, and
the vet actually said to us that it was a 50-50 chance
of whether they were going to live or not.
And that was sort of a bit of a scary time.
'Having nursed them back to health...'
Do you want belly rubs, eh?
'..Bryn and Sadie don't want to send them back.'
We have thought about it
because we do have a limited amount of space, and it is unfair to keep them.
We are hoping they don't get much bigger, so we won't have to do it.
If they grow a couple more inches, I think we'll be all right.
But it is a case of, if they do get bigger, we honestly don't know what step to take.
Because we can't send them back, because we are afraid that they might go off to the slaughterhouse -
that's not really what we want.
You know, they are our pets, we do sit with them at night-time.
-And they go off to sleep with us and... They are, well, part of the family, really.
Both Bryn and Sadie, and Margaret, did receive compensation from the breeder,
but with costs of keeping full-sized pigs
running into thousands of pounds, they're still well out of pocket.
It has been a lot of cost.
The stable door we had to buy in there was a couple of hundred pounds.
We've had to fence in the garden more securely, and that's cost us.
I suppose, in all, we must have spent nearly £3,000 in fencing and everything.
Plus, obviously, he eats a lot more than a little tiny pig would! So, yeah.
Wendy Scudamore has been breeding pigs for years.
Pig-pigs, come on.
She's concerned that other breeders are trying to create mini-pigs
by just using the smallest or weakest pigs of a litter.
Or that they're feeding them drugs to keep them under 21 inches high.
Either way, she thinks pigs don't make good pets.
Pigs are basically foraging creatures,
and by foraging, I mean using its snout to look for food,
and an indoor pig will still be inclined to do the same thing.
It'll root through your carpets or through the sofa, or anything else it can find,
because that's natural for a pig.
There are all kinds of other habits pigs have.
For example, a boar pig will scent wherever he goes,
which is a constant trickle of urine leaving his scent marking.
You can't possibly have that kind of thing in a house.
And Margaret, whose mini-pig grew into a giant, has suspicions as to what's going on.
I think it's all about money, because they're selling for around £1,000 now,
and when you think you can buy that sort of pig for probably 50 quid,
it's got to be about the money.
And while the breeders are counting the cash, Wendy's just seeing the problems pile up.
We are already seeing a lot of these pigs coming up for re-homing.
It's a problem that's already beginning to mushroom,
and it's going to mushroom out of all proportion, because there are going to be
literally thousands of these pigs looking for new homes in the very near future.
That's all from Fake Britain today. Bye for now.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Dominic Littlewood reveals the extraordinary story of the secret consignment of fake oil drilling parts tracked down by trading standards officers in Peterborough. He follows Customs and Excise officers on the trail of fake diesel - agricultural fuel that has had its red tell-tale dye removed - and the criminals who peddle it.
Also featured are the owners of so-called mini pigs who have seen the fake perky porkers grow to be a lot bigger than expected, and the victims of an incredible scam: they have come home to find someone else living in their house, as it has been rented out by a fake landlord.