A new Economic Crime Unit has been launched by the Environment Agency. Its role is to tackle money laundering and carry out financial investigations in the waste sector.
The Environment Agency has already been targeting waste crime with its Financial Investigations Team, and this new Unit will build on that work.
The Unit will be made up of two teams: the Asset Denial Team and the Money Laundering Investigations Team. The Asset Denial Team will focus on account freezing orders, cash seizures, pre-charge restraints and confiscations. The Money Laundering Investigations Team will be involved in conducting dedicated money laundering investigations that target environmental offences. A money laundering offence could result in a 14-year prison sentence for the offender.
To indicate the scale of the problem that waste crime is causing, Alan Lovell, Chair of the Environment Agency said that waste crime “costs our economy an estimated £1 billion every year.”
The Environment Agency is keen to tackle this problem. For instance, in November 2023 they successfully prosecuted the operators of a quarry near Stevenage. The operators were handed prison sentences for storing and burying enough illegal waste to fill the Royal Albert Hall nearly three times over.
It is hoped that the new Unit will increase the Environment Agency’s effectiveness in this area thereby reducing the load on legitimate business.