TWO men, who took part in one of the biggest fuel frauds in history, have been jailed.

Denis Bardwell and James Green were jailed for two and three years respectively for their part in the plot to steal £2million worth of fuel from the UK’s biggest oil refineries, including Coryton near Corringham.

Leeds Crown Court heard they were part of a nine-strong gang who not only stole hundreds of thousands of litres of petrol, but also distributed illegally imported mixed oil.

The operation was financed and organised by a West Yorkshire-based firm Euro Commodities UK.

They paid crooks cash to set up arms of their operation across the country.

The Essex branch of the gang was run by businessman 61-year-old James Green, of Hillcrest, South Woodham Ferrers, and his son 36-year-old Russell.

They recruited 62-year-old Denis Bardwell, a pipe worker at BP Coryton.

Bardwell, of Kennel Lane, Billericay, was in charge of the maintenance of the British Pipeline Agency site at the BP-owned Coryton.

He found a way to bypass the metre on the main supply pipe - which feeds to garages and major airports across the South East - and in exchange for regular cash payment tapped into it and stole gallons of petrol.

Russell Green, 36, of Bickerton Point, South Woodham Ferrers - a haulier by trade - then transported the fuel to yards in Rookery Hill and Thameshaven in Corringham, controlled by him and his dad.

It was stored there until it was sold on illegally to garages.

One of the trio’s main customers, 56-year-old garage owner Charanjeet Sra from Middlesex, sold on the stolen fuel to unwitting customers at his petrol stations across East London and Essex, evading tax.

Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) cottoned on to the scam and put the Greens and Bardwell under surveillance.

They caught the trio in action and they were arrested by detectives from Thurrock for their part in the fraud.

During interview Bardwell admitted stealing five lots of fuel between January and March 2007 and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal. He has also handed over £32,000 in cash to HMRC.

Russell Green’s fingerprints were found on bags of cash found at Bardwell’s home.

He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal and admitted 14 fuel thefts between November 2006 and March 2007.

Green Jnr was given a 12-month jail term, suspended for two years and 300 hours of unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay more than £55,000 paid to HMRC.

Sra was given a 12-month jail term suspended for two years, 250 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay back £95,000 to HMRC.

Several others, who were involved in illegally importing mixed fuel from Spain, were also jailed.