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25 September 2009 - Media release

INTERPOL co-ordinates landmark hazardous waste operation in North America

LYON, France – The first-ever international environmental initiative co-ordinated by INTERPOL against the illegal transportation of hazardous waste has seen Canadian and US authorities carry out an operation that saw hundreds of vehicles checked along their border.

Targeting vehicles capable of transporting waste of all forms – including industrial chemical waste, the two-day operation (23-24 September) focused on major transportation routes in the Ontario area. With unscrupulous companies and individuals often seeking to cheaply dispose of hazardous waste illegally, at times via criminal gangs, the operation saw 350 vehicles checked, 140 violations identified and eight investigations launched so far.

Led by officers from the Canadian and US national environmental agencies (Environment Canada, US Environmental Protection Agency), state environmental agencies (Ontario Ministries of Environment and Transport, New York State Environmental Conservation Police), and customs authorities (Canada Border Services Agency), the operation also involved INTERPOL’s National Central Bureaus (NCBs) in Ottawa and Washington which provided secure police communication channels, access to a range of INTERPOL databases and analytical support­.

“Pollution and greed respect no boundaries and America is committed to working with its domestic and international law enforcement partners to combat the illegal transport of hazardous waste transnationally,” said Fred Burnside, Director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Criminal Enforcement. “This initiative should send a strong message of deterrence to would-be violators that the environmental cops are on the beat.”

INTERPOL Environmental Crime Programme manager David Higgins said that INTERPOL’s ability to facilitate multi-country and multi-agency law enforcement communication and co-operation was vital in promoting internationally co-ordinated operations against environmental crime.

“The trans-border movement of hazardous waste represents an especially harmful example of environmental crime which ignores borders. It requires an international law enforcement response which INTERPOL is uniquely able to co-ordinate by assisting each of its member countries communicate critical information to one another via its National Central Bureaus,” said Mr Higgins.

Describing the illegal transportation of hazardous waste as ‘a growing global concern’, Environment Canada’s Chief Enforcement Officer, Albin Tremblay said: “It is therefore all the more important that enforcement agencies work collaboratively to fight this issue. This operation proves that this type of partnership is a successful approach for dealing with this type of environmental crime."

INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme was launched in 1992 and has grown significantly since, expanding areas of co-operation with many national, international and non-governmental agencies across its 187 member countries. The results of this operation will be reviewed alongside other environmental issues at the forthcoming INTERPOL Pollution Crime Working Group meeting at INTERPOL’s General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon (7-9 October).