Gang arrested for illegal shipping of hazardous waste
The SEPRONA (Nature protection Service team) department of the Guardia Civil with support of Europol, has arrested 34 people on the islands of Tenerife and Gran Canaria after an investigation into the illegal shipping of large quantities of hazardous waste to various countries in Africa, for breach of national regulations. In addition, in order to carry out this illegal activity, they also committed a crime of falsifying documents.
The majority of those arrested were of African nationality or origin, the group loaded containers with an infinite number of second-hand items, including motor vehicles, vehicle parts, household goods, and used electrical and electronic devices, for export and sale to third parties in various African countries.
These used items had been disposed of because they became obsolete or unusable, and were collected by the gang on public roads, at the entrances of rubbish dumps, or directly from people throwing them out. The items were then loaded into containers for shipping and stacked on top of each other without any protection or separation,but and to make the most of the space.
These Waste Electrical or Electronic Equipment (WEEE) contain dangerous substances that, although necessary to guarantee their functionality, can be emitted into the environment or be harmful to human health. The waste was then ending up in countries with little or no recycling or waste management legislation.
Given the number of countries involved, Europol has been supported in the operational analysis to find possible relationships with the rest of the Member States and third countries.
A 62-year-old Italian woman, responsible for commercial premises dedicated to merchandise exports to Africa, was in charge of preparing and sending all the necessary documentation to a customs agency authorized for customs clearance.
False documents were created to show the rubbish items were in full working order in preparation for export.
After the agents of SEPRONA ascertained the illegal activity had been taking place for several years on the island, an exhaustive search was carried out with a court order at an Italian women's office in the town of El Fraile, municipality of Arona, seizing numerous documentation and computer material
From the investigation and the material seized, during the years 2018 and 2019, 138 illegal shipments of hazardous waste were made from the port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife to different countries on the African continent, such as Senegal, Ghana, The Gambia, Togo, Rep. Of Benin, Sierra Leone and, mainly, Nigeria, using various types of forged certificates.
The total amount of hazardous waste illegally shipped in this period of time amounts, according to the investigation, to almost 2.5 million kilos of which, more than 750,000kgs is waste from electrical and electronic equipment.