20 people investigated for irregular management of Covid-19 biosanitary waste

The objective of the research was a company specialized in the management of waste generated in hospitals and health centers

It is estimated that the company, which operated in Spain and Portugal, would have saved costs, thus earning up to close to one million euros

Several transport companies have been investigated for moving waste without the protocols or minimum security measures

The Civil Guard investigates a company belonging to an American international holding company with European headquarters in London, for poor management of Covid-19 healthcare waste. The Ribio operation has resulted in the arrest and investigation of 20 people.

The investigated company reduced costs in packaging, handling and protective equipment, with the increased risk of virus dispersal that it entails. The operation has focused on the headquarters in Catalonia, the Valencian Community, the Balearic Islands and Madrid, and also on the headquarters in Portugal.

Surveys carried out by SEPRONA have revealed that infectious waste was stored in the street and without the proper packaging, using another type of cheaper packaging.

This modus operandi allowed them to increase the profits obtained, which are estimated at 300%. The majority of the operators only had gloves as personal protective equipment.

The savings in packaging caused a large part of them – by containing liquid substances – to deteriorate and the contents of the bags would end up dispersed on the public road.

The investigated company assumed a volume and type of waste well above the forecast made based on its capacity. This has led to possible incorrect treatments, which failed to neutralize the viral load and the risk of infection, and, in general, negligent actions that could have generated contagion situations.

Those investigated used unauthorized vessels for the clandestine storage of this waste. The company increased its management by three tons in just a few months, without the capacity to do so.

Irregularities committed

The managing company used cardboard boxes as a container to store the infectious bags, in violation of the minimum security standards accepted and set by current legislation.

This generated a risk for the workers who handled it, and transported it, especially in subcontracted companies not authorized for this type of waste, and where the transporters did not have qualifications or protocols for action.

Those responsible for the company commit several crimes related to irregular waste management, crimes against workers' rights and against public health.
The mismanagement of this waste can directly lead to the application of criminal sanctions with prison terms of two to five years, a fine of eight to twenty-four months and special disqualification for a profession or trade for a period of one to three years.

International context

The Ribio operation is part of the operational and preventive campaigns developed by EUROPOL in the framework of the Covid-19 emergency, in accordance with international, European Union and national legislative frameworks. It has collaborated closely with the Portuguese GNR (Republican National Guard) to inspect the headquarters that the company has in that country, and with the support of EUROPOL in the analysis of communications and in the strategic analysis of documentation to find possible relationships with the rest of European countries.

For more information, you can contact the SEPRONA Press Office at 608.251.069.

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