SPANISH police have smashed an organised crime gang that they claim earned up to €1 million by illegally trading ten tons of ozone-depleting gas.
The Guardia Civil discovered a company and an organised crime group involved in the illegal export of ten tons of the banned R-22 refrigerant gas smuggled from the EU.
The Seprona nature protection branch of the Guardia Civil carried out the investigation supported by Europol and the French National Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie Nationale).
Europol said ten people were involved in illegal earth-destroying activities.
The investigation revealed that a company in Valencia, Spain, was involved in smuggling the R-22 refrigerant gas without a legal licence, earning between €500,000 to €1 million in profit for the criminal gang.
Police launched their investigations in 2017 when the Spanish Ministry of Environment was informed of R-22 gas allegedly being exported to Panama illegally. The operation found that the company repackaged R-22 refrigerant liquids that should have been sorted as hazardous waste. This led to around 10,000 kg of R-22 gas being traded illegally as regenerated gas. The investigation revealed that these ten tons of illegally exported gas would have released 17 000 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.
The investigation started as part of Project TECUM, which focuses on the (transnational) organised crime dimension of environmental crimes.
Since 2010, the use and introduction of ozone-depleting gases onto the market has been banned in the EU. The ban was strengthened in 2015 when even more by recycling and regenerated gas were added to the list. The investigation coincides with a report recently published by the United Nations, which states that air pollution affects 90 per cent of the earth’s population.