Interpol pollution crime survey underlines inextricable links between environmental crime and trade-based fraud

Document fraud and financial crime are systematically employed by organised criminal groups to facilitate offences related to pollution crime that generate millions of US dollars each year, a new survey by Interpol has found.

The survey underlines the finding of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that environmental crimes and trade-based fraud are inextricably linked.

Sample survey

World police body Interpol examined just a small 27-case sample of its own investigations and found that each of these organised pollution-related conspiracies generated between US$175,000 and US$58 million, an average of US$19.6 million per case.

The combined proceeds of the crimes – which included waste crime, marine pollution crime, illicit trafficking in chemicals, carbon trading crime and pollution caused by illegal mining activities – totalled half a billion US dollars.

Hazardous waste

Illicit trade in and the illegal disposal of hazardous waste features in one case that spanned 43 countries and involved all types of illegal waste, including industrial, construction, household and medical waste.

A common trend observed across all types of shipments concerned declaration and paper work irregularities, including false declaration of waste types (including misclassification and partial declaration), and false declaration of waste as non-waste or not declared at all.

It’s all the same criminals

Interpol focuses in particular on transnational crimes and says 62 per cent of illicit waste trade cases in its survey occurred along transboundary routes.

“As for the pollution crime offenders, when we run their names through our databases, we often find the same names linked to other crimes. Money laundering, tax evasion, fraud. It’s all the same criminals,” the police body concludes.

Growing evidence

Interpol’s findings underpin those reached by the FATF in its landmark report, Money Laundering from Environmental Crime.

It pointed out that waste crimes, an alternative definition of pollution crimes, as well as forestry crime and illegal mining rely on trade-based fraud to conceal movement of money across borders.

This includes falsification of documentation, particularly as it relates to the import and export of goods, and false invoicing and trade transactions to justify moving money across borders

A summary of Interpol’s survey of 27 cases involving pollution crimes as well as links to some of these cases and other resources related to the world police body’s work in this area can be found here.

The FATF report, Money Laundering from Environmental Crime, can be found here.


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