Belfast Telegraph

Fake plates in taxi scam
Bogus drivers use black market.

By Deborah McAleese
07 January 2005

Illegal taxi drivers in Northern Ireland are beating the new licensing system by buying counterfeit licence plates on the black market.

It has been claimed that licence plates - made compulsory in November - are readily available at Jonesborough Market in Co Armagh where police raids have targeted para-military and other criminal gangs suspected of a multi-million pound counterfeit trade.

All licensed taxis were ordered to display the new plates by the DoE's Driver and Vehicle Licensing Northern Ireland (DVLNI) to discourage rogue taxi operators.

Under the previous system it was difficult to distinguish between a licensed and unlicensed taxi as the only identifying mark was a disc on the windscreen.

The new system requires vehicles to display the plates at the front and rear, with smaller plates inside.

However, one legitimate Belfast taxi driver said there is a "frightening" number of illegal taxis.

He said bogus plates were readily available at Jonesborough Market and that the scam was pushing insurance costs for legal drivers "through the roof".

"We are all aware this is going on and it is unfair on legitimate drivers who must pay for their PSV, insurance and taxi licence.

"The public must be made aware that this is going on and make sure they book their taxi with a reputable firm," he said.

The cost of a PSV for a taxi, which includes the new plates, is £120 while a taxi driver licence is £58.50.

On the black market fake plates and licences can be bought for as little as £20.

The Department of the Environment today admitted it was aware of allegations that forged taxi licence plates could be purchased on the black market.

Since the introduction of taxi plates in November the Driver and Vehicle Testing Agency enforcement section has detected 30 vehicles alleged to be operating unlicensed and unplated.

Further investigations are ongoing to clarify the details of these cases.

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