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Environmental crime

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Environmental crime is an illegal act which directly harms the environment. These illegal activities involve the environment, wildlife, biodiversity and natural resources. International bodies such as, G8, Interpol, European Union, United Nations Environment Programme, United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, have recognised the following environmental crimes:

Environmental crime makes up almost a third of crimes committed by organizations such as; corporations, partnerships, unions, trusts, pension funds, and non-profits. It is the fourth largest criminal activity in the world and It is increasing by five to seven percent every year.[2] These crimes are liable for prosecution. Interpol facilitates international police cooperation and assists its member countries in the effective enforcement of national and international environmental laws and treaties. Interpol began fighting environmental crime in 1992.[3]


International criminal gangs and militant groups profit from the plunder of natural resources and these illegal profits are soaring. Terrorism and even civil wars are consequences of environmental crime.[4] According to UNEP and Interpol, in June 2016 the value of environmental crime is 26 per cent larger than previous estimates, at US$91–258 billion, compared to US$70–213 billion in 2014, outstripping illegal trade in small arms.[5] More than half of this amount can be attributed to illegal logging and deforestation.

Prosecution by ICC

In September 2016 it was announced that the International Criminal Court located in The Hague will prosecute government and individuals for environmental crimes.[6] According to the Case Selection Criteria announced in Policy Paper on Case Selection and Prioritisation by ICC on 15 September 2016, the Office will give particular consideration to prosecuting Rome Statute crimes that are committed by means of, or that result in, "inter alia, the destruction of the environment, the illegal exploitation of natural resources or the illegal dispossession of land".[7]

Environmental crime in the European Union

Within the European Union, the road to an effective enforcement of Environmental Crime legislation has been anything but straightforward.[8] A major role is played by the Environmental Crime Directive,[9] a 2008 instrument aimed at protecting the environment through the use of criminal law. Even though some studies show that there has been a decline in non-compliance with environmental policy by Member States,[10] after over a decade from the publication of the first Directive, as part of the European Green Deal,the European Commission submitted a |proposal for a new Directive with the aim of strengthening the enforcement and prosecution of environmental crimes through the use of clearer definitions and sanctions other than the typical fines and imprisonment.[11]

Environmental crime by country

United States

Abandoned or little used areas are common dumping places in America -especially railroads. Over $10 million a year are used to remove illegal dumping from polluting towns and the environment. A small organization, CSXT Police Environment Crimes Unit, has been started to stop railroad dumping specifically.

Ever since the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Criminal Enforcement was founded in 1982, there has been a steady increase in prosecuted environmental crimes.[12] This includes the prosecution of companies that have illegally dumped or caused oil spills. On a federal level, while the EPA oversees the investigations, the prosecutions are typically brought by the U.S. Department of Justice, through its Environmental Crimes Section, and/or through one of the 94 U.S. Attorney's Office across the country.

In a 2004 case study, a 30-pound cylinder of  CFC-12 could be purchased in China for US$40 and illegally sold in the US for US$600.[13]

In 2000, California real estate developer Eric Diesel was sentenced to 6 months in jail and ordered to pay a $300,000 fine for grading an illegal road in the Santa Cruz Mountains.[14][15]


An example of Ecomafia was Naples waste management where there was illegal dumping in the 1980s.


In Nigeria, the establishment of environmental agencies began in 1988 after an incident of dumping of toxic materials in the country by international waste traders (the infamous  Koko incident). Presently, agencies such as the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (Nigeria) are empowered by Nigerian law to regulate the environment sector. This agency works with other organs of the government such as customs, police, military intelligence, etc., and has successfully seized illegally trafficked wildlife products and prosecuted a number persons, including non-nationals.


As a trading hub, Singapore is susceptible to unnoticed contraband. Charles W. Schmidt explains how China sells illegal  CFC-12 to the United States through Singapore due to the lack of inspections and confidentiality of private businesses in Singapore.[13]


Violations of Russia's environmental protection laws cost the country more than $187 million in 2018. Out of nearly 23.9 thousand environmental crimes registered in Russia in 2018, the overwhelming majority were related to; the illegal cutting of forest plantations, amounting approximately to 13.8 thousand cases, and Illegal hunting, with over 1.9 thousand cases observed. [16]


The effective enforcement of environmental laws is vital to any protection regimes that are designed to protect the environment. In the early days of environmental legislation, violations carried largely insignificant civil fines and penalties. Initial environmental laws and regulations had little or no deterrent effect on corporations, individuals, or governments to comply with environmental laws. Indeed, a major source of failure of US environmental protection legislation was the civil character of federal enforcement actions. Their chief sanction was fines, which many corporations took in stride as a cost of doing business. Environmental criminal law covers a narrower ground. Its core consists of the criminal provisions of eight federal statutes passed mainly in the 1970s and amended in the last two decades.[17]

In many cases, particularly corporations found it more cost-effective to continue to pollute more than the law allowed and simply pay any associate fines if indeed the corporation was actually found and convicted of violating environmental laws or regulations. Kevin Tomkins believes corporations had a disincentive to comply with environmental laws or regulations as compliance generally raised their operational costs. This was interpreted as many corporations obeying the environmental laws, whether out of a sense of legal duty or public obligation, were disadvantaged and lost a competitive edge and consequently suffered in the marketplace to competitors who disregarded environmental laws and regulations. As a result of weak environmental legislation and continued adverse public opinion regarding the management of the environment, many governments established various environmental enforcement regimes that dramatically increased the legal powers of environmental investigators. The inclusion of criminal sanctions, significant increases in fines coupled with possible imprisonment of corporate officers changed the face of environmental law enforcement. For example, between 1983 and 1990 the US Department of Justice secured $57,358,404.00 in criminal penalties and obtained sentences of imprisonment for 55% of defendants charged with environmental offences.[18]

Many environmental agencies play important roles in reducing environmental damage and protecting the environment through environmental laws and regulations. These agencies operate at varying levels from International, Regional, National, State to Local level, keeping one agency working at one level. Various enforcement methods are employed by these agencies to warrant compliance with environmental laws and regulations. In some case's enforcement agencies use what is called "Command and Control" which are traditional regulatory approaches. In other cases, they may use economic incentive and hybrid-based approaches, which there are two. Moreover, it has increased the need for cooperation between different policing institutions. Environmental law enforcement agencies and police services do not operate in a vacuum; the legislative instruments that political systems implement govern their activities and responsibilities within society. However, ostensibly it is the legislative instruments implemented by governments that determine many of the strategies utilised by police services in protecting the environment. Generally these International, Regional, National and State legislative instruments are designed to ensure industries, individuals, and governments comply with the various environmental obligations embedded in national statutes and laws. There are also international legal instruments and treaties that also affect the way that sovereign states deal with environmental issues .[18]

Environmental criminology

Environmental criminology examines the notions of crimes, offences and injurious behaviours against the environment and starts to examine the role that societies including corporations, governments and communities play in generating environmental harms. Criminology is now starting to recognise the impact of humans on the environment and how law enforcement agencies and the judiciary measure harm to the environment and attribute sanctions to the offenders.[19] Environmental crime does not only affect the land, water, air, it affects the health of children as well. According to an article published in Environmental Health Perspectives in 2016, "The evolution and expansion of children's environmental health protection over the past two decades has been remarkable. At the U.S. EPA, significant efforts have been made to address the special susceptibility of children, and our work continues to address emerging environmental concerns to ensure that children's environments are free of hazards and support healthy development."[20]

See also


  1. ^ Banks, D., Davies, C., Gosling, J., Newman, J., Rice, M., Wadley, J., Walravens, F. (2008) Environmental Crime. A threat to our future. Environmental Investigation Agency pdf
  2. ^ []
  3. ^ Interpol (2009) Environmental crime online Archived 2006-03-15 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Solheim, E., Need for global action, in: D+C 9 (2016), S. 46. [1]
  5. ^ "UNEP-INTERPOL Report: Value of Environmental Crime up 26%". 2016-06-04.
  6. ^ Vidal, John; Bowcott, Owen (15 September 2016). "ICC widens remit to include environmental destruction cases". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  8. ^ Michael Faure, 'The Development of Environmental Criminal Law in the EU and its Member States' [2017] Review of European Community & International Environmental Law 26(2).
  9. ^ |Directive 2008/99/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 November 2008 on the protection of the environment through criminal law, OJ L 328.
  10. ^ Tanja A. Börzel and Aron Buzogany,'Compliance with EU Environmental Law. The Iceberg is Melting' [2018] Environmental Politics 28(2).
  11. ^ |European Commission Questions and Answers on the revised EU Directive on environmental crime
  12. ^ EPA Basic Information on criminal enforcement
  13. ^ a b Environmental crimes: profiting at earth's expense
  14. ^ Big Fine In Hillside Erosion / $300,000 fine over road's collapse
  15. ^ "Metroactive | San Jose | Mud Happens".
  16. ^ Statista statistics- Environmental crimes by country-Russia 
  17. ^ Environmental Crime: The Criminal Justice System's Role in Protecting the Environment By Yingyi Situ, David Emmons Published by Sage Publications, 1999 ISBN 0-7619-0036-5, ISBN 978-0-7619-0036-8
  18. ^ a b Tomkins, Kevin. Police, Law Enforcement and the Environment [online]. Current Issues in Criminal Justice; Volume 16, Issue 3; March 2005; 294–306
  19. ^ White, R. 2003‘Environmental Issues and the Criminological Imagination’, Theoretical Criminology, 7(4): 483–506.
  20. ^ Firestone, Michael (December 2016). "Two Decades of Enhancing Children's Environmental Health Protection at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency". Environmental Health Perspectives. 124 (12): 1823–A236. doi:10.1289/EHP1040. PMC 5132627. PMID 27905272.Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.

Further reading

External links

This page was last edited on 11 August 2022, at 02:36
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