The Fight against Environmental Crime:
the first ever European Environmental and Financial Expert Meeting (EFEM)
On 10 and 11 May 2016, as part of the Dutch EU Presidency, EnviCrimeNet (ECN*) held an Expert Meeting at Europol The Hague. The theme of this meeting was the removal of the proceeds of environmental crime.
Such a meeting, with the objective of better facilitating the removal of money from those involved in environmental crime, had never been organised before at European level.
Environmental and Financial Experts from European Criminal Investigation Agencies met to exchange experiences with representatives of 23 countries, as well as Europol, Interpol, Eurojust, the European Commission, the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice, the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate – the Intelligence and Investigation Service, and the police.
"Discover the truth by following the money."
Mr Roel Willekens, chairman of ECN and programme manager of the Dutch Environmental Crime Police: "The motive for criminals to commit environmental crimes is money. So take away their money, and you'll hit them hardest. Following the money helps to gain an insight in suspects and possible criminal networks. This way, you also prevent the money from being used for future criminal purposes."
The meeting was opened by Mr Oldrich Martinu, the Deputy Director of Europol's Governance Department, and Mr Stoffel Heijsman, Environmental Crime portfolio holder of the Dutch Police.
"Europol is ready to provide support in operations."
Mr Martinu: "Financal investigation resources are a precious tool when it comes to fighting crime in Europe, but they are not (yet) fully integrated in environmental law enforcement. This is why the true scale of the financial profits for criminals remains unknown for now. Europol supports the intitiative of EnviCrimeNet and the Dutch EU Presidency and takes the financial expertise needed to improve the fight against environmental crime to the next level."
"Get to know each other, learn from each other, exchange experiences, and collaborate."
Mr Heijsman: "I believe that this Expert Meeting and its focus on financial investigation has taken us to a higher level. We will increase our efficiency by collaborating on a multidisciplinary level, both nationally and internationally. This meeting is a good start for broadening our expertise by learning from each other and by exchanging experiences."
The recommendations we received after the meeting have been laid down in a report.
The participants may utilise them in their own countries or organisations.
* ECN is an informal network of environmental protection officers within the EU.
EnviCrimeNet - Press release Annual General Meeting 2015
The fifth EnviCrimeNet Annual General Meeting, hosted by the Italian Corpo Forestale dello Stato (CFS) and the Italian Carabinieri, was held on 21 and 22 October in Milan (Italy). Experts and practitioners from Europol, the European Commission and 16 European countries, met to discuss best practices, latest developments and challenges posed by environmental crime.
For the last five years, Europol has provided the permanent Secretariat for this informal network of practitioners combating environmental and wildlife crime.
The two-day meeting covered wildlife-related crimes, with a particular focus on illegal waste trade, criminal behavior in relation to safety and industrial plants, and illegal logging. The joint EnviCrimeNet/Europol Intelligence Project on Environmental Crime (IPEC) presented its final results, the IPEC Report and a related upcoming Background Paper.
Among the meeting's conclusions, a number of projects and further recommendations for law enforcement and other stakeholders were proposed. Experts agreed that, while it is often believed that poaching and illegal hunting is primarily a problem in African or Asian countries, the illegal hunting, trafficking and breeding of wolves is a problem for many European countries. Other concerns in Europe are the illegal logging and timber trade, as well as the health and safety dangers posed by the illegal textile waste trade. In particular, the huge illicit profits gained through logging and textile waste trade require increased focus from law enforcement as well as more public awareness.
Other outcomes from the meeting were:
- Spain decided to join the Steering Group of EnviCrimeNet.
- Mr. Roel Willekens from the Dutch Police will chair the network for another year.
- During its Presidency of the Council of the EU in the first half of 2016, Dutch law enforcement authorities will put a focus on financial investigations related to environmental crimes.
- Slovakia will make environmental crime an important topic during their Presidency in the second half of 2016.
- France, represented by OCLAESP, intends to further increase its activities in relation to environmental crimes.
- The Italian Carabinieri will continue the EU-wide waste trafficking project TECUM.
EnviCrimeNet - Press release Annual General Meeting 2014
The fourth EnviCrimeNet Annual General Meeting, hosted by Europol in The Hague, took place on the 19th and 20th of November this year. For four years the Netherlands are chairing this network with Europol providing the Secretariat for this informal network of practioners combating environmental (and wildlife) crime, launched in 2011.
Next to several presentations by mainly law enforcement members an introduction of the environmental application of the Dutch National Police was given to the 43 delegates, who ranged from specialised investigators to specialised prosecutors. This app helps police officers to take the initial steps in combating environmental crime.
Most of the EU Member States were present and the network had the pleasure to welcome Slovakia in the Steering Group of EnviCrimeNet. Slovakia presented the proposal for an EU Action Plan, 'EnviCrime OFF', to combat environmental crime. The plan contains Work Packages such as creating a 'cooking book', as well as developing an effective IT application for citizens and police forces that can be used by all EU member states.
An ongoing academic study focusing on illegal trade in caviar to the EU was also presented: overexploitation of wild sturgeon stocks in Russia and other countries and the involvement of criminal networks. Europe appears to be the largest importer of caviar.
Other environmental crime activities were addressed. Of particular interest was the impact of illegal transports of waste as well as counterfeit pesticides with devastating effects on crops and soils. This week a European action against the involvement of organised crime and Mafia-related crime in waste trafficking is being held, organised by the Italian police. The outcome of this joint action (15 European countries participated) will be presented in a document that relates to Environmental Crime in the international arena.
The Intelligence Project on Environmental Crime (IPEC), a joint project of the EnviCrimeNet and Europol, presented the preliminary results of a questionnaire that was send to all EU Member States; they received 52 responses from 36 jurisdictions. The results will help strategic decision-makers on EU level to assess whether environmental crimes should be a priority in the fight of European law enforcement against serious and organised criminal threats.
The network will continue to be supported by Europol. The next annual meeting is already planned for October 2015 in Milan.
EnviCrimeNet - Press release annual meeting 2013
The third EnviCrimeNet annual seminar hosted by Europol took place on the 13th and 14th of November this year and was chaired by the Netherlands for the third year in a row, while Europol ensures the Secretariat of this informal network launched in 2011. On this occasion, the Europol Threat Assessment 2013 on Environmental Crime in the EU was given to the 48 delegates who ranged from specialised investigators to specialised Prosecutors.
Most of the EU Member States were present, and the network had the pleasure to welcome Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia amongst its ranks, while the Commission DG Environment and DG Home, Eurojust, Interpol and networks such as Aquapol, Railpol and IMPEL (the European Union Network for the Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law) could deliver a much appreciated support.
An ongoing academic study focusing on the illegal trafficking of endangered species [TES] was presented, stressing the criminal trends and profits, the necessity for line officers to report a clearly underestimated crime: the EU is both a destination and source region for the trafficking in endangered species, which include live or parts of specimen of wild fauna and flora. Ivory and rhino horn poached in Africa or stolen in the EU remain in high demand with customers particularly in China, where sale generate significant profits for the organised crime groups involved.
Other criminal activities, were addressed under the angle of environmental crime. Of particular interest and legal difficulty was the air and maritime pollution resulting from the illegal mixing of oil sludge (toxic wastes) with petrol as well as counterfeit pesticides with devastating effects on crops and soils.
The network will continue to be supported by Europol. The next annual meeting is already planned for the 19th and 20th of November 2014.