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Ozone crime scheme busted

A Spanish investigation leading to the seizure of 37,000 kg of ozone-depleting refrigerants is to be recognised with an award from UNEP.


Spain’s Public Prosecutor Office for the Protection of the Environment had entrusted the SEPRONA unit of the country’s Civil Guard with an investigation into the possible illegal trade in substances that deplete the ozone layer.


The inquiry focused on the online trading practices for legal and ozone-depleting refrigerants such as R22 as well as possible illegal trade activities in Spanish harbours, where significant amounts of the gas been seized in the past.


It was established that fishing vessels from various countries of origin were docking in ports of the Autonomous Community of Galicia to not only pick up fishing tackle but also purchase R22 for servicing their cooling equipment on board. The import and subsequent export of R22 is only allowed by companies authorised by the European Commission.


A search in the electronic licensing system of the European Commission revealed the name of a single company trading refrigerants with such vessels.


Further investigations revealed that the company in question had illegally traded virgin R22 with companies based in Spain and in other EU countries where the sale and purchase is banned.


As a result, 37 metric tons of R22 were seized, it was revealed last month. In addition to the investigated firm, another 24 companies possibly involved in the illegal trade or use of virgin R22 were identified.


The Spanish Public Prosecutor Office for the Protection of the Environment and SEPRONA will receive the Ozone Protection Award for Customs & Enforcement Officers at UNEP’s regional customs cooperation meeting in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, 24-25 May 2016. It is the second time that the Prosecutor Office receives the award.


The prize is presented by UNEP’s Regional Ozone Network for Europe and Central Asia, which works to strengthen the capacity of government, industry and civil society in developing countries to carry out the Montreal Protocol for protecting the ozone layer.


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