Pollution also multi-million-dollar industry for organised crime: Interpol | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Pollution also multi-million-dollar industry for organised crime: Interpol

ByNeeraj Chauhan
Aug 11, 2022 11:38 AM IST

Since there is no internationally agreed definition, Interpol refers to “pollution crime” as an umbrella term describing a range of criminal activities

Pollution is not just harming the planet but has become a multi-million-dollar illegal industry for organised crime networks and “mafia-clans” operating at the international level as well as the companies, according to an Interpol report on the Organized Crime-Pollution Crime (OC-PC) nexus released last week.

At least 19 Interpol member countries including India contributed to the report. (AP)
At least 19 Interpol member countries including India contributed to the report. (AP)

The report points to the co-existence of two parallel phenomena worldwide – legitimate companies operating in the environmental compliance sector shifting towards illegal business practices and committing pollution crimes to increase their profits; and organized criminal groups expanding and/or diversifying their illicit business to infiltrate the waste management sector and other profitable markets involving environmentally sensitive commodities.

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At least 19 Interpol member countries including India contributed to the report by sharing details of their pollution crimes or expertise.

Overall, an in-depth analysis of 27 pollution crime cases, the majority of them from European countries, was done to come to a conclusion that the organised crime-pollution crime nexus is a global phenomenon, involving a wide variety of perpetrators and organisational structures.

Since there is no internationally agreed definition for the same, Interpol refers to “pollution crime” as an umbrella term describing a range of criminal activities involving the trafficking and/or the illegal management of potential contaminants, and resulting in environmental pollution such as waste crime; marine pollution; fuel, oil and gas smuggling and illegal refineries; illegal use and trade in chemicals and plastic; and carbon trading crime.

It has identified document fraud, tax evasion, and money laundering among the key components in pollution crimes’ modus operandi.

The report pegs the proceeds of 27 pollution crime cases combined to half a billion US dollars. Of these, 22 involved waste crimes particularly waste trafficking/illegal dumping. Two are related to illegal mining, two pertaining to fraud, and one case of racketeering associated with a breach of environmental regulation.

“Illegal pollution is a highly profitable and serious crime, with devastating consequences for communities, the environment, legitimate businesses, and the rule of law. In the cases examined by the Interpol report, the proceeds of the pollution offences ranged from USD 175,000 to USD 58 million, corresponding to an average of USD 19.6 million for each case. The proceeds of the 27 pollution crime cases combined are estimated to amount to half a billion US dollars. Equally alarming are the costs to clean up and decontaminate illegal pollution sites, which ranged from USD 6 million to 37 million (USD 15.6 million on average) according to the cases examined,” said the international policy body, which has 195 countries as its members.

Stressing that the OC-PC nexus represents a threat to many countries, the Interpol report, said, “Organized criminal groups of any size have been found involved in cases of pollution crime in many countries worldwide, with illicit operations ranging from local activities to large-scale intercontinental trafficking worth millions USD.”

“Pollution offenders are innovative, adaptive, and at times sophisticated in their methods of operation. In most cases analyzed, suspects were organized in the form of flexible groups or networks, with the ability to infiltrate several different industries and markets where environmentally sensitive commodities are involved. This includes the agricultural, construction, energy, mining, and waste management markets, among others.’

Of the pollution crimes analysed, 19 had transnational links while eight were domestic crimes. Seven cases had large crime syndicates involved.

In one particular case, Spanish authorities unearthed a syndicate involved in the illegal trading of waste tyres across 18 European, West African, and South American countries. Similarly, German authorities identified 19 companies based there and 184 businesses in West Africa cooperating on waste smuggling.

Citing a case in the UK, Interpol said organised crime groups illegally exported municipal waste from Britain and dumped it in Poland, fraudulently claiming to dispose of the waste in legitimate UK-based sites, as they were paid to do. This illegal dumping resulted in estimated 30-40 waste fires in Poland.

The Interpol also found that a key characteristic of pollution criminality is the capacity of those involved to penetrate the public sector and local politics. “Some public sector accomplices actively participate in the commission of the offences to share profits and benefits. Other corrupted public officials facilitate the criminal activity by providing confidential information or by containing enforcement,” it said.

It recommended national law enforcement agencies elevate pollution crime to a priority level on their agendas and shift from a reactive to a proactive approach when investigating such crimes domestically.

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