Estonia, Finland engaging in cooperation to investigate illegal waste shipment

  • 2022-01-31
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - The Estonian prosecutor's office suspects three people and two enterprises associated with them in unlawful large-scale waste shipment between Estonia and Finland in 2019 and 2020, the matter is being investigated by the Estonian Environmental Board and the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation.

In cooperation with the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation, the Estonian Environmental Board is investigating unlawful waste shipment between the two states, spokespeople for the North District Prosecutor's Office said on Monday. Proceedings are conducted in parallel in Finland and Estonia. The criminal proceedings in Estonia focus on waste shipment in 2019 and 2020, when altogether 40 waste loads containing over 100 tons of waste oil and oil refuse were transported between Estonia and Finland without the required accompanying documents, according to the suspicion.

According to the suspicion, the shipment of 70 loads or close to 1,700 tons, of wastes from mechanical treatment of waste was also mediated to Estonia without the required authorization. Waste processed in Finland was brought to Estonia for further processing and, according to the suspicions, the representatives of both the company mediating the shipment as well as those of the Estonian company receiving it were aware that the transport and reception of the waste was unauthorized.

Jurgen Huva, prosecutor at the North District Prosecutor's Office leading the criminal proceedings in Estonia, said that based on the information gathered in the course of the investigation, former and current members of the companies' management boards were acting consciously and in a coordinated manner to reduce their waste shipment costs.

"By transferring specific residues from the mechanical treatment of waste to a company in Estonia that does not have a corresponding waste management permit, they may have saved more than 100,000 euros, but the danger posed to the environment by improper handling of prohibited waste is more important," he said. 

Rocco Ots, head of the Environmental Board's department for investigations, underscored that the special requirements for waste management are in place for the purpose of ensuring safety.

"Illegal shipments pose a threat to both the natural environment and human health. Risks are mitigated if the handling and recycling concerns materials whose composition is known and their potential environmental impact analyzed. However, waste containing oil products is a direct environmental risk in case of improper handling and technology. Finely shredded waste of unknown origin cannot be sorted afterwards and it cannot be verified that it does not contain hazardous substances. Therefore, certain requirements have been set for the handling and transport of waste, and violating them can have serious consequences," Ots said. 

The criminal proceedings are conducted in the framework of a joint Estonian-Finnish investigation team.

"This unlawful waste shipment constitutes cross-border crime and evidence in this case needs to be gathered in both states, thus, close cooperation is required. A joint investigation team enables to exchange information between the two states' investigative authorities faster and under simplified procedure. Pursuant to the agreement, each state is to investigate the crimes committed by their citizens," the prosecutor, Jurgen Huva, said.