EUROPE: The successful prosecutions of cyber criminals selling illegal ozone-depleting refrigerants on the internet are to bring awards for the authorities involved.
The enforcement officers and institutions involved in the successful investigations in Spain and Romania will receive the UNEP ECA Ozone Protection Award later this month.
In 2012 and 2013 in Spain, the public prosecutors office for the protection of the environment and the civil guard (SEPRONA unit) identified websites which offered HCFCs and even CFCs (R12) for recharging refrigeration equipment. A similar case was also prosecuted in Valencia.
Subsequently, eleven further breaches of the Spanish regulation on ODS were detected. This operation led to the arrest of 110 people involved in these activities and the seizure of large quantities of refrigerants, particularly R22.
Further investigations in 2014 found about 20 advertisements for R22 on different websites. This resulted in investigations into four people in Cadiz, Gerona, Barcelona and Alicante and the seizure of six cylinders containing 62 kg of R22 in total. The cylinders were said to be so old and corroded that the original labels were not readable, but the investigation revealed that they were purchased legally in the past.
The court cases are ongoing. One of the offenders has already been sentenced to six months in prison, a fine of €730 and a ban on practicing any profession resulting in air pollution for six years.
The National Environmental Guard in Romania investigated similar online advertisements offering refrigerants for sale, including R12, R22, R407C, R410A and R134a at a price of around €110/cylinder. A subsequent police raid uncovered about 20 refrigerant cylinders containing 240kg of R12 and R22. The cylinders were seized and the seller was imprisoned for six months.