The dirtiest contraband in Gibraltar

Three arrested from international network that illegally shipped 370 tons of garbage to sites in Spain

Spain’s Civil Guard has arrested three Spaniards accused of belonging to an international network that has been shipping garbage into Gibraltar and then to Spain. Authorities say some 370 tons of refuse was illegally transported from the British Overseas Territory into the country in less than two months.

A truck dumping garbage illegally.
A truck dumping garbage illegally.Guardia Civil | EPV

The three Spanish nationals used two companies – one of them based in Gibraltar, the other in neighboring Cádiz province – to facilitate the entry of 34 trucks of solid urban waste that was supposed to be treated in Spain and returned to Gibraltar, but was then offloaded at waste disposal sites in and around the town of Medina Sidonia.

The 370 tons of garbage were brought into Spain between February 8 and March 31, although police suspect that the three arrested had probably been operating for longer. Their modus operandi was to bring trucks into Spain using documents claiming the garbage was to be treated and then returned to Gibraltar. This allowed them to avoid lengthy paperwork and other procedures.

But the garbage was not treated, and instead of being returned to Gibraltar was dumped at different sites throughout Cádiz province. Given the amount of garbage transported in such a short period of time, the authorities suspect that it did not originate in Gibraltar and that much of it probably came from third countries.

Operation Tyson has uncovered more than 1.5 million tons of illegal waste dumping in 43 countries

The arrest of the three men was part of Operation Tyson, in which the Civil Guard’s Seprona environmental protection service took part in June. That operation was a combined move against illegal garbage dumping in 43 countries. In Spain, this involved more than 1,000 officers carrying out 4,020 inspections, among them 1,090 at treatment plants, 526 at residue treatment centers, 318 at production centers and 473 at waste disposal sites. As a result, five offenses were uncovered, among them those committed by the Gibraltar-based network. A further dozen or so other investigations have also resulted from the operation.

The Civil Guard also discovered two cargo vessels loaded with 6,600 tons of metal residue. While unloading at Spanish ports, the ships had illegally dumped waste into the sea. The authorities also located another vessel carrying plastic waste from Senegal that had no authorization or documentation on the origin or composition of the cargo.

Operation Tyson has also led to the detection of several illegal oil storage sites, among them, one that held 136,000 liters of used vegetable oil and 32,000 liters of residue water from the oil.

In total, Operation Tyson has uncovered more than 1.5 million tons of illegal waste dumping in the 43 countries involved in the investigation. Furthermore, investigations have uncovered new international residue trafficking routes, including transnational smuggling, the illegal sale of substances that affect the ozone layer and illegal recycling. It’s a dirty business, but one that can be very lucrative, according to Interpol.

English version by Nick Lyne.


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