Europol has launched its Threat Assessment 2013 on Environmental Crime in the EU. The report mentions that environmental crime threatens the health of European citizens and those exposed to exported dangerous substances. It also threatens the subsistence of those relying on an unharmed environment in farming or fishing and exploits the EU’s free trade and movement regimes.
Environmental crime encompasses a wide range of offences and is frequently closely linked to different fraud offences and involves the use of fraudulent documents and certificates. The most prominent environmental crimes featuring the involvement of organised crime in the EU are the trafficking in illicit waste and the trafficking in endangered species.
“Despite its intrinsic links to the legal economy, the trafficking of illicit waste remains under-reported and under-investigated. As an example we see that Italian organised crime groups are engaged in providing waste management services to both the private and public sectors and in the trafficking in illicit waste”, says Europol’s director Rob Wainwright.
In addition to the organised crime groups also licit companies engage in trafficking in illicit waste, which means illicit waste trafficking has both an organised and a serious crime dimension, which require different approaches in investigation and prosecution at international but also at national levels. Waste traffickers exploit the absence of EU-wide standardised control regimes and use fraudulent documentation as key aspects of their modi operandi. The trafficking of electronic waste to Africa and, to a lesser extent, Asia is increasing. Electronic waste has become a sought-after commodity traded for the value of the metals and resources contained in it particularly in emerging economies in West Africa and parts of Asia.
“The EU remains one of the most important markets for the trafficking in endangered species and it attracts highly specialised organised crime groups, which service a niche market.” says Rob Wainwright Director of Europol.
These facts were confirmed once more during the EnviCrimeNet third annual seminar hosted by Europol on the 13th and 14th of November this year and chaired by the Netherlands for the third year in a row, while Europol ensures the Secretariat of this informal network launched in 2011. On this occasion, the threat assessment was given to the 48 delegates who ranged from specialised investigators to specialised Prosecutors.
Most of the EU Member States were present, and the network had the pleasure to welcome Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia amongst its ranks, while the Commission DG Environment and DG Home, Eurojust, Interpol and networks such as Aquapol, Railpol and IMPEL (the European Union Network for the Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law) could deliver a much appreciated support.
An ongoing academic study focusing on the illegal trafficking of endangered species [TES] was presented, stressing the criminal trends and profits, the necessity for line officers to report a clearly underestimated crime: the EU is both a destination and source region for the trafficking in endangered species, which include live or parts of specimen of wild fauna and flora. Ivory and rhino horn poached in Africa or stolen in the EU remain in high demand with customers particularly in China, where sale generate significant profits for the organised crime groups involved.
Other criminal activities, were addressed under the angle of environmental crime. Of particular interest and legal difficulty was the air and maritime pollution resulting from the illegal mixing of oil sludge (toxic wastes) with petrol as well as counterfeit pesticides with devastating effects on crops and soils.