The Civil Guard dismantles a criminal group dedicated to the illegal transfer of more than 2,500,000 kg of hazardous waste from Tenerife to Africa

34 people have been investigated, who are accused of a continuous crime of illegal transfer of hazardous waste and another of falsification of documents

Waste from electrical or electronic equipment (WEEE) contains dangerous substances that cause serious pollution to the environment and their handling is extremely dangerous for human health.

The economic valuation is estimated at 846,000 Euros

The Nature Protection Service Team of the Commandery of the Civil Guard of Santa Cruz de Tenerife (SEPRONA) with the support of agents of the Civil Guard of the Central Operational Environmental Unit (UCOMA) of the SEPRONA Headquarters in Madrid, and in collaboration with Europol, in the framework of the BASEL-TF Police Operation, it has carried out the arrest and investigation of 34 people on the islands of Tenerife and Gran Canaria for a continuous crime of illegal transfer of large quantities of hazardous waste to various countries of the African continent in breach of the community and national regulations that regulate it. Furthermore, in order to carry out this illegal shipment of waste, they also committed a crime of falsifying documents.

Modus Operandi

The investigated, mostly of African nationality or origin, loaded maritime containers with an infinite number of second-hand items, including motor vehicles, vehicle parts, household goods and, in a large percentage, used electrical and electronic equipment, for subsequent export and sale to third parties in certain African countries.
These used electrical and electronic devices were obtained from people or companies that disposed of them because they became obsolete or unusable, being collected by the accused on public roads, at the entrances of clean points, on the trail, and other places, and later they were loaded in sea containers, stacked on top of each other without any protection or separation to make the most of the space.
Given the number of countries involved, Europol has been supported in the operational analysis to find possible relations with the rest of the Member States and third countries.

Documents forgery

A 62-year-old Italian woman, responsible for a 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 with the Agency. Tax, previously falsifying the mandatory operating certificates of the electrical devices required in order to carry out the export of the goods, obtaining an economic benefit for each operation.

Operation of the operation

After the agents of the SEPRONA of the Civil Guard ascertained the illegal activity that was taking place continuously and for several years on the island, an exhaustive search was carried out with a court order at the Italian women's office in the town of El Fraile, municipality of Arona, seizing numerous documentation and computer material.
From the intervened material it has been obtained that, during the years 2018 and 2019, up to 40 people, 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, Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone and, mainly, Nigeria, using various types of forged certificates (they were directly made by the aforementioned woman as if they were made by third parties engaged in the repair of household appliances) that they falsely accredited that the electrical and electronic equipment that was shipped worked perfectly.
The total amount of hazardous waste illegally shipped in this period of time amounts, according to the investigation, to almost 2,500,000 kgs of which, more than 750,000 kgs. They have been waste from electrical and electronic equipment, highlighting the monitors and CRT screens that total more than 160 tons and the refrigerators with more than 145 tons.

Hazardous waste for human health and the environment.

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 if, once converted into waste, the devices are not managed and treated properly, as they may contain cadmium, mercury, lead, arsenic, phosphorous, dangerous oils, and gases that deplete the ozone layer and affect global warming.
In addition, this type of waste ends up in countries with little or no recycling or waste management legislation, as in the case of the aforementioned African countries, and which are often treated by children, without any type of protection and that they even handle appliances with bare hands to extract mainly aluminum and copper. The materials are treated in open fires, releasing polluting dust and fumes from burning (especially from PVC combustion).
In this operation, it has had the collaboration of the General Sub-Directorate of Circular Economy of MITERD.

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