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Crime and Policing

12 people arrested for post-Brexit imports trafficking

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The Guardia Civil, in collaboration with the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), in the so-called “Dashboard” operation, has arrested and investigated 12 people for being related to the management and handling of waste from a scrapyard in the town of Villagarcía de Arousa (Pontevedra), which lacked the necessary permits.

Six searches have been carried out at homes, scrapyard and warehouse, where numerous documentation related to the operation has been found, which is being analysed.

The operation began when the Guardia Civil detected in the Port of Santander (Cantabria) the arrival of trucks with vehicles from the United Kingdom and destined for a scrapyard in Villagarcía de Arousa. These landings were also carried out in other ports in Spain and in the Calais Euro-Tunnel (France). The actions carried out determined that since the beginning of Brexit, a total of 424 vehicles (more than 600,000 kilos of scrap) have arrived in Spain destined for that scrapyard.

For this reason, the Guardia Civil established contacts with the Illicit Trafficking, Health and Environment Unit of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).

Dangerous residues

As a result, it was possible to verify that, in five years, the scrapyard had received more than 5,000 vehicles, both from foreign and national origin, carrying out a minimum recovery of the fluids from the air conditioners, being dangerous waste that must be recovered and delivered to an authorised handler.

Seprona, the environmental branch of the Guardia Civil, was able to verify in the scrapyard itself the existence of vehicles with the destruction and decontamination certificate, not having been completely decontaminated and remaining with different waste such as oils, brake fluids, air conditioning fluids, etc.

These fluids (tetrafluoroethanes) upon contact with air volatilise with a capacity to remain in the atmosphere for 14 years, which together with their characteristics make this type of gas part of those that generate the problem of global warming. Furthermore, they are considered a detriment to the balance of natural systems, and through this, to people’s health.

Agricultural warehouse with more than 4,000 used tyres

Part of the components of the vehicles managed by the scrapyard were processed through online sales, including from an agricultural warehouse where more than 4,000 used tyres were located, the origin of which is assumed to have been from the scrapyard under investigation.

The owner of said warehouse did not have authorisation to store and sell the tyres, which, together with the fact that the property is located in a forest environment, is considered a risk as a result of the large volume of tyres stored.

The exploitation phase of the operation, carried out last week in the provinces of Pontevedra and León, resulted in seven detainees and five people under investigation who were charged with alleged crimes against natural resources and the environment, false certificates of destruction and decontamination of vehicles, money laundering, against public finances and membership in a criminal group.

Vehicles destined for scrapping from the United Kingdom must have the relevant communications and authorisations from the environmental authorities of Spain to be able to carry out cross-border shipments of waste, in this case lacking such authorisations.

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