Customes and Excise officers have seized 87 vehicles during a six-day oil fraud operation in the region.

Operation Keeper, was launched in Cleveland, Durham, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear in a bid to catch drivers of vehicles illegally using red diesel or kerosene.

The investigation resulted in the seizure of ten taxis, 18 heavy goods vehicles, 59 cars and vans and one fuel storage tanker.

So far 62 of the vehicles have been restored to their owners on payment of more than £30,000 in penalties.

Rob Hastings-Trew, Customs spokesman for Northern England said: "Since April 2000, seizures of vehicles involved in oil fraud have more than trebled. Customs are determined to crack down hard on those who try to defraud the system.

Red diesel is normal road diesel which has a rebated level of duty primarily for use in farm vehicles.

Red dye is added to distinguish its limited legal use and kerosene is fully rebated when used as domestic heating fuel.