The European Union must step up action to tackle an environmental crime spree that is costing billion, is one of the conclusions of the report Crime and Punishment, which presents a series of recommendations to Member States and the European Commission to improve the investigation and sanctioning of environmental crimes in the EU. It calls for increased resources and capacity to investigate crimes and the setting of clear guidelines to align sanctions between Member States. The report is published by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB),
Environmental crime, including logging, mining, waste dumping and the illegal wildlife trade, is one of the most profitable types of criminal activity, worth an estimated $258 billion every year.
The report shows that not all environmental crimes are currently recognised as such in the European Union, which leads to inadequate and low sanctions.
Some key recommendations in the report are:
- Precise EU guidelines on sanctions for environmental crimes should be developed to help judges award dissuasive penalties in a uniform way across the EU
- Sanctions should reflect the high profits and lucrative nature of environmental crimes
- Member States have to impose criminal liability on corporations so that both individuals and companies can be held criminally liable. The EU should take enforcement action against the Member States who fail to do this.
Environmental crime is one of the most profitable illegal trades in the world. Because the victim of environmental crime is typically voiceless, it is very convenient for criminals to make a lucrative business out of it. It is especially in the last few years that the seriousness and scale of the problem is more known, sometimes brought to light by NGOs and investigative journalists.
This report finds that vague legal definitions and gaps in enforcement allow for crimes to be perpetrated without a suitable punishment. The authors concentrate on three main factors explaining why this is the case: the problems in investigating the guilty parties, corporate liability of environmental crimes and the level of sanctions.