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Environment Agency launches Economic Crime Unit

Environment Agency launches Economic Crime Unit


The Environment Agency introduces a specialised unit to tackle money laundering and financial crimes in waste management

The Environment Agency has taken a decisive step in the ongoing battle against waste-related financial crimes by launching a dedicated Economic Crime Unit. This unit aims to enhance efforts in addressing money laundering, conducting financial investigations, and ensuring that crime does not pay within the waste sector.

The newly established unit expands upon the successes of the Environment Agency Financial Investigations Team, with a particular focus on preventing gangsters from operating in the waste industry. Comprising skilled personnel, including Accredited Financial Investigators and Intelligence Officers, the Economic Crime Unit will conduct in-depth crime analysis to grasp the broader context of financial offenses in the sector.

The unit will consist of two teams – the Asset Denial Team and the Money Laundering Investigations Team. The Asset Denial Team will employ measures such as account freezing orders, cash seizures, and confiscations, making it challenging for criminals to benefit from their illicit activities. The Money Laundering Investigations Team will specifically target environmental offenses, carrying the potential of severe penalties, including up to 14 years in prison.

Alan Lovell, Chair of the Environment Agency, emphasizes the detrimental impact of waste crime on communities and the economy, costing an estimated £1 billion annually. The Economic Crime Unit's launch reflects a commitment to curbing organized criminal activities in the waste sector, preventing further damage to the environment and legitimate businesses.

Emma Viner, Enforcement & Investigations Manager at the Environment Agency, underscores the financial motivation behind waste crime and expresses excitement about the unit's potential to deter criminals by ensuring their activities are not profitable.

Environment Minister Robbie Moore recognizes waste crime's wide-ranging consequences, from environmental damage to funding more serious criminal activities. The Economic Crime Unit, as a powerful tool, is part of a broader strategy to reshape the waste industry, including mandatory digital waste tracking and reforms in waste carriers' regulations.

Jacob Hayler, Executive Director of the Environmental Services Association, applauds the Environment Agency's financial investigatory efforts, emphasizing that waste crime is fundamentally a financial offense that exploits the environment and legitimate businesses.

The Environment Agency's recent national survey reveals that 18% of waste in England is perceived to be illegally managed, highlighting the urgency of combating waste crime. The agency continues its fight against criminals through coordinated operations, prosecutions, and strategic partnerships with law enforcement agencies.

The Economic Crime Unit not only strengthens the Environment Agency's ability to investigate financial offenses but also leverages existing collaborations with partners like the police and HMRC. The agency's access to key databases and intelligence-sharing initiatives, such as customs export data from HMRC, demonstrates a multifaceted approach to identify, target, and intercept illegal waste activities.

The launch of the Economic Crime Unit marks a significant milestone in the Environment Agency's relentless efforts to curb financial offenses in the waste sector. With a focus on intelligence-led operations and strengthened partnerships, the agency aims to create a robust deterrent against waste crime, safeguarding communities, the environment, and the economy.