Ireland cited for crime gangs illegally dumping waste

Ireland and Italy were fingered as the two countries where criminal gangs are making big money from illegal exporting and dumping dangerous waste.

But despite huge profits from these crimes, estimated at more than €50bn a year, the penalties for those caught are much too small.

Eurojust, the EU’s judicial co-operation body which released the report, said it was time member states focused on environmental crime, put proper structures in place and co-operated across borders.

The number of cases referred to Eurojust is very low, it said, despite an obvious need to pursue perpetrators across borders and achieve convictions.

It highlighted three examples of what it said was a long list of environmental crimes: Dangerous waste illegally exported to third states from Italy and Ireland; different forms of water pollution in Greece, Hungary, and Sweden; and the illegal exports of bird eggs and monkeys.

Illegal landfills were a problem in Ireland and the dumping of waste across the border in Northern Ireland was a big issue and several reports over the past few years found that the Government has been forced to excavate and get rid of this waste, costing the State million of euro.

The problem is a growing one with a huge increase in Germany for instance, where it was a new phenomenon, the report said.

The money earned by the criminals was very high and because the detection rate and penalties were so so low, it was a very attractive racket to be involved in.

“We see a big increase in these kind of crimes but we do not see member states increasing their investigations or prosecutions” said Leif Gorts, the Swedish chief public prosecutor and Eurojust member.

He said last year a number of criminals were found guilty of trading rhino horns in Ireland, but got off with a fine.

“We see many such examples like this where the penalty should have been much higher,” he said.

There were other examples such as in Britain killing birds of prey to protect pheasants, or collecting the eggs of wild birds such as bald headed eagles, breeding them and selling them for €5,000, making a huge profit.

Beefing up the detection and conviction of such criminals need not cost a country more if member states reorganise and co-operate, sharing intelligence and good practice, he said.

At the moment Eurojust and its sister police organisation, Europol, do not do well in gathering intelligence about environmental crime. “We are struggling, we don’t know how big this is — we have many indications that things need to improve so we have to co-operate more,” said the president of Eurojust, Michele Coninsx.


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