5042841_sEUROPE: An investigation is underway into an attempt to illegally import 60 tonnes of R22 into Europe.

The apparent fraud came to light after China’s National Management Office of ODS Import & Export consulted with the European Commission concerning a planned export of 80 tonnes of R22 to the European Union under the informal Prior Informed Consent (iPIC) mechanism.

The European Commission confirmed that they had issued one of the two licenses for the import of 20 tonnes but not the second licence for the import of 60 tonnes.

Neither the name of the European importer nor the country involved has been revealed but the company is known to be one of around 200 companies registered as an importer/exporter of HCFCs in the licensing system of the European Union.

A genuine licence is thought to have been used to make up the fake license by replacing the last digit of the reference number of the genuine licence as well as the quantities.

While the use of virgin R22 as a refrigerant is already banned in Europe and the servicing of equipment with recovered and reclaimed R22 will be banned from 1 January 2015, it is still permitted for use in some “critical” military applications, in r&d and as a feedstock in the manufacture of other products. R22, for instance, is an important feedstock in the manufacture of fluoropolymers, particularly PTFE products like Teflon.

UNEP’s iPIC is a voluntary and informal mechanism of information exchange on intended trade between countries in ozone-depleting substances, ODS-containing mixtures, products and equipment. The countries participating in iPIC share details of eligible importers and exporters with other iPIC members through a secure online platform and the designated iPIC focal points carry out a simple consultation with their trading partner country prior to intended shipments of ODS.