By John Ensor • 28 August 2023 • 18:40
The Guardia Civil has recently exposed a major criminal organisation involved in the illicit trafficking of used vehicles, termed as hazardous waste.
A report published on Monday, August 28, has given details of Operation Injini, in which the Guardia Civil investigated an Authorised Centre for the Treatment of end-of-life vehicles (CAT) situated in the Community of Madrid.
This centre was at the heart of a network of companies spread across various Spanish provinces, primarily dealing with motorcycles and mopeds. The organisation specialised in illegally exporting these vehicles, under the guise of second-hand sales, to several African nations, Italy, Portugal, and Poland.
This organisation would buy deregistered motorcycles and mopeds, classified as hazardous waste, at a minimal cost. Instead of processing them as waste, they’d export them as second-hand vehicles to various countries, including Italy, Portugal, and Poland.
By doing so, they sidestepped export bans on hazardous waste and significantly boosted their profit margins. Moreover, these transactions were kept off the books, allowing them to defraud the public treasury and further inflate their earnings.
The company is also under scrutiny for labour exploitation. Many of their workers operated without formal contracts, receiving cash payments without proper documentation. The organisation stored vast amounts of hazardous waste in unauthorised areas, exceeding the permissible storage duration.
This illicit practice funded a luxurious lifestyle for the group’s members, who acquired assets worth €5 million, now under judicial review.
The criminal structure was meticulously organised. At its helm were two company administrators overseeing all illicit activities. Below them were two individuals handling administrative and financial tasks, managing both official and concealed accounts. The latter was used to siphon off profits without paying due taxes.
Ten operators within the company were responsible for altering vehicle identification details, ensuring they couldn’t be traced back to the CAT or their original Certificate of Destruction. Some of these vehicles were even stolen. The final tier comprised clients, transporters, and suppliers who facilitated the illegal acquisition and transfer of these vehicles.
Beyond the environmental concerns, this operation also aimed to dodge tax obligations. They were linked to structures focused on laundering the illicit funds. The investigation led to the arrest of 25 individuals and the investigation of five legal entities. It’s estimated that the criminal network amassed over half a million euros in illicit profits during the investigation period.
Searches yielded significant documentary and digital evidence, nearly €4,000 euros in cash, a bill-counting machine, and various weapons. The accused face charges ranging from environmental crimes, association with a criminal organisation, money laundering, document forgery, labour rights violations, and tax evasion.
CATs are designed to manage waste responsibly, minimising environmental risks. Proper waste management incurs costs, offset by selling valuable vehicle parts. By neglecting their duty, this organisation not only endangered the environment but also made fraudulent gains.
The investigation was spearheaded by Court No. 6 of Valdemoro (Madrid), executed by the Central Operating Unit for the Environment (UCOMA) of the SEPRONA Headquarters, in collaboration with the General Sub-directorate for Circular Economy of MITERD, supported by the Central Traffic Group (GIAT), Investigation Units of the Company of Aranjuez (Madrid) and EUROPOL.
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Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina.
He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.
When he's not writing for EWN he enjoys gigging in a acoustic duo, looking after their four dogs, four chickens, two cats, and cycling up mountains very slowly.
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