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Almost 4,000 environmental crimes investigated last year

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Figures revealed today show that during the past year, the Nature Protection Service (SEPRONA) of the Guardia Civil detained and investigated a total of 3,957 people for crimes related to the environment. During this period, more than 200,000 administrative infractions have been processed. This year, the infractions of the public health regulations due to the irregular use of masks and related waste stand out. Likewise, they have investigated 4,234 crimes against the environment.

Criminal offenses

The crimes that have increased the most are those related to animal abuse, hunting and those related to the protection of flora and fauna.

Those arrested for poaching increased, more than 250, as a result of efforts in different operations carried out throughout the year.

Administrative offences

Of note are the administrative infractions in the regulations on dumping and waste with 17,183 complaints, actions related to pets with 10,459, animal health with 8,427 and actions in water with 4,274.

Also the 6,800 infractions related to the regulations on flora and fauna natural spaces, 30% more than the previous year, or the 5,711 on hunting regulations.

Likewise, in relation to forest fire crimes, out of a total of 352 twice as many crimes as the previous year have been clarified, with a total of 330 arrested and investigated. The forest fire that occurred in Burgos, committed by serious negligence, stands out. The fire, which reached level 1, and burned more than 100 hectares, had more than 80 troops and up to 9 air resources from the Junta de Castilla y León and the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge.

Prevention against waste and sanitary measures by Covid19

As a result of the declaration of the State of Alarm, and the consequences that the development of the pandemic is having both on people and on the environment, SEPRONA has reinforced the control in the management of hazardous sanitary waste and its consequences.

The individual mismanagement of used gloves and masks is increasing the presence of plastic waste in rivers and seas, a problem whose environmental impact was already being reduced given the pollution and damage it causes in these ecosystems. Due to the large volume of hygienic – sanitary actions, the number of related offenses rises to 130,221.

Traffic of waste and pollution

Research on waste management and the pollution it can cause are directly linked to the prevention of climate change and its effects. Not only do operations in the field of bioinfectious waste stand out, but also against the illicit traffic of waste.

Operation “Retrovirus”, a project born within EUROPOL to address the problems associated with waste management linked to the explosion of the SAR COV-2 pandemic. 53 people were arrested, more than 500 inspections were carried out in 300 centres linked to the management of sanitary waste. Despite the fact that the majority of waste managers complied with the regulations, serious irregularities were detected.

Operation “Hartie”, the Guardia Civil and the Municipal Police of Madrid, within the framework of the HARTIE operation, dismantled a criminal organisation dedicated to the irregular management of waste in the city of Madrid. 42 people were arrested and investigated for alleged crimes against the environment, criminal organisation, theft and theft of waste, money laundering and illegal waste shipments to Southeast Asia, China and India mainly.

278 illegal shipments were certified, weighing 67,300 tonnes and worth 10 million euro.

Animal abuse

Interventions, investigations and operations related to abuse and neglect of domestic animals follow the same trend as previous years, although crimes, detainees and investigated have also increased slightly, reaching more than 630 people.

Animal abuse in Zaragoza: The Guardia Civil investigated two people for an alleged crime of animal abuse. Inside a plot, delimited by a perimeter fence, and with evident lack of hygiene, up to 544 dogs were found. Once inside the facilities, where a strong stench was perceived due to the absolute lack of cleanliness, numerous specimens were observed locked in small cages, of those used for raising rabbits, being their hygienic-sanitary conditions lamentable, since the faeces and urine were accumulated in large quantities in the cages themselves and on the floor of the warehouse, in addition to a lack of water and food, as well as an obvious neglect of veterinary care and a poor clinical situation.

Protected species

In relation to the CITES convention on international trade in wild species, more than 750 specimens have been recovered throughout 2020, including birds, reptiles, mammals or amphibians, a figure well below last year, as well as 390 pieces of parts or derivatives.

During 2020, numerous operations related to protected species have been developed, such as:

Operation “Oratrix”, the Guardia Civil detained and investigated 23 members of a criminal network dedicated to the illegal trade of protected species. More than 280 species were seized. The volume of the business in the last five years amounted to more than 1,000,000 euro. Crimes of money laundering, smuggling, professional intrusion and fraud, among others, were jointly investigated.

Operation “Askea”, The existing problem with the trafficking of eels is still in force, but every year relevant operations are carried out against this illegal traffic, as is the case of the ASKEA operation, where 20 people were arrested and up to 722 kilos of eels were seized with a market value that could reach up to 1.5 million euro. It should be noted that the intervened specimens were released into the natural environment. In this way, one of the most difficult objectives in the fight against species trafficking was achieved, such as the total reintroduction into the environment of the intervened specimens.

Agri-food safety and public health

Interventions related to this matter decreased compared to the previous year, to a total of 117 crimes detected and 259 arrested and investigated, of which the following operations stand out:

“Pitanza”, the Guardia Civil detained 14 people and investigated another two for the handling, labelling and distribution of expired and / or poorly maintained meat products that were found in several meat companies located in the provinces of Madrid, Toledo and Malaga. They labelled and used false traceability of meat products to hide and whiten expired and / or unconsumed batches. More than 122,000 kilos of different meat products were intervened.

“Pevera”, the Guardia Civil, within the framework of the Pevera operation, has detected a company that was engaged in the production, distribution and sale of supposedly organic pistachios under a brand that did not meet those requirements. The operation had the collaboration of EUROPOL and resulted in the investigation of 14 people in Ciudad Real, Madrid and Malaga. In these provinces, SEPRONA intervened the pistachios received by various companies with a fraudulent use of organic certification.

The Guardia Civil calculated that the benefits obtained with this deception were greater than six million euro. With this fraudulent practice, they caused the economic return to rise between 60 and 80% above the real value of the product.

International collaboration

SEPRONA has developed different collaborations with international police organisations such as EUROPOL or INTERPOL, for the development of international operations. Likewise, it carries out joint operations with European police officers such as the Portuguese GNR, French GNF, the Italian Carabinieri Corps and with third countries such as the Moroccan GRM, the Colombian National Police, among others.

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