EU operation nets big illicit refrigerant haul in Romania

An enforcement operation in Romania has resulted in the seizure of 76 metric tonnes of illicit refrigerant gases with the potential to contribute to global warming.

The crackdown by the Romanian authorities, which was assisted by the EU anti-fraud office, kept the refrigerants off the EU market and likely prevented a global warming impact equivalent to 170,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide.

The hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) gases are approved for use as refrigerants in the EU but their importation into the EU is highly restricted because of their impact on the environment, and importers have to be registered.

OLAF investigators had been monitoring a suspicious shipment from China that had been discharged in Turkey, removed from its container and re-routed by truck to the EU.

The customs documents accompanying several shipments revealed that they were destined for five different consignees in Romania. Four of the consignees were not registered to receive imports of these gases, while the fifth one would have significantly exceeded its quota for 2020 with its share of the shipment.

In addition, in most of the cases, the refrigerant gases were packaged in non-refillable cylinders, which are banned in the EU.

Earlier this summer, Dutch authorities seized approximately 14 tonnes of illicit refrigerant gases following an alert by OLAF, while last year a 25-tonne illegal shipment was intercepted in Poland.

“This is the second case this summer where OLAF intelligence has kept several tonnes of illicit refrigerant gases off the EU market,” said the agency’s director-general, Ville Itälä.

“The fight against the illegal import of HFCs into the EU is one of OLAF’s operational priorities, in line with the European Commission’s ambition to make Europe the first climate neutral continent by 2050 with its European Green Deal,” he added.

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