Illicit refrigerants worth €10m sized in Europe

A crackdown by EU enforcement agencies has resulted in the seizure of more than 2,100 cylinders of synthetic refrigerants worth an estimated €10m ($11.65m).

The Europol-coordinated operation targeted fluorinated greenhouse gases or F-gases, and took out of circulation illicitly imported products that would be equivalent to more than 142,000 tonnes of CO2.

The cross-border and multi-agency initiative – which ran for five days in September, aimed to ensure the respect of quota restrictions on F-gases, which are being phased out by the EU in a bid to combat climate change.

Illegal imports of F-gases have rocketed in the last few years, according to chemical trade body Cefic, which says the trade is poised to grow even further with tightening of EU CO2 quotas coming into force in January 2021.

The EU set annual quotas for HFCs in 2018, hoping that would encourage the use of greener refrigerants, but that has inadvertently stimulated a black market in illicit importers tapping into rising prices.

"Despite the harmful effects of F-gases on the environment, these synthetic refrigerants are used without respecting specific measures aimed at reducing their impact on the atmosphere," said Europol in a statement. "The regulation and quota implementation of these imports has triggered an increase in the illegal trade."

The operation spanned 1,682 inspections, which detected 706 administrative infringements and 28 criminal infringements, with seven arrests made.

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