Anatomy of Environmental Crime

Any study should begin with a solid definition of the subject under investigation. Implicitly or explicitly most authors of this volume take a legal approach to define environmental crime, that is, an act that harms the environment and is in breach of a (criminal, civil, or administrative) law or regulation. In short, the law tells us which act is an environmental crime and therefore punishable and which is just pollution that might be frowned upon but is perfectly legal (such as letting your car idle or engage in industrial livestock farming). Jennifer Maher and Ragnhild Sollund (Chap. 5) conceptualize environmental crime in a more comprehensive way, arguing that any act that harms wildlife, many of which result in injury and death, should be considered an environmental crime. The authors thereby acknowledge the inherent rights of animals beyond their utility for humankind (see also Chap. 1).

Christoph Stefes and Pete Theodoratos (Chap. 8) provide a further argument as to why a legal approach might be too narrow to fully grasp the extent of environmental crime. Where economic interests and political authority collude, environmental laws and regulations are usually lax, and resources allocated to law enforcement are often lacking. What might, therefore, be punishable by law in one country is lawful in another. Taking a legal approach to conceptualizing environmental

Table 9.1 Summary of Case Studies

Land of Fires

IUU Fishery

E-waste

Shipment

Wildlife

Trafficking

Kosovo

Mining in Armenia

Authors'

conceptual

approach

Narrow, legal

Narrow, legal; but includes unregulated fishing

Narrow, legal; but recognizes fine line between legal- ity/i I legality

Broad, both legal and non- legal acts considered environmental crime

Narrow, legal

Medium; acknowledging environmental crime in law-making process

What is/are the 'crime(s)'?

Illegal disposal and trafficking of toxic wastes

Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing

Illegal shipping of electronic waste from EU countries to China

Trafficking of live animals, animal parts, and derivatives

Illegal logging; weakly regulated and illegal mining; illegal waste disposal

Weakly regulated and illegal mining, incl. processing and treatment of refuse

Degree of criminalization

Initially weak (misdemeanour), later stronger (jail sentences)

Weak (mainly fines)

Medium (prison sentences)

Weak (fines and short or suspended prison sentences)

Medium

Weak

Geographic

reach

National,

regional

Global

Global

Global

National,

regional

National,

regional

(icontinued)

Land of Fires

IUU Fishery

E-waste

Shipment

Wildlife

Trafficking

Kosovo

Mining in Armenia

Organized?

Yes

Sometimes, but also individual vessels

Yes

Often, but also individual and one-time offenders

Sometimes, but also individual offenders

Yes (collusion of economic and political elite)

Who are the offenders?

Mafia groups, businesses, state officials

Fishers, sometimes criminal groups

Organized crime groups; logistics companies; custom officials

Manifold (tourists, crime groups, custom officials, consumers)

Organized

crime

groups;

individuals;

state

officials

Oligarchs, high- ranking politicians, lower ranking officials

Offenders'

motives

Financial rewards and avoidance of costs

Financial

rewards

Financial rewards and avoidance of costs

Financial rewards; consumption, status, collections; ignorance

Financial

rewards;

survival

Financial rewards (profits and bribes)

Who are the victims?

Humans; animals; biodiversity; and ecosystems

Fish, entire species; humans

Humans (primarily

Chinese); legal recycling business in Europe

Animals, entire species; humans (secondary)

Wildlife;

humans

Humans; wildlife, entire species

Types of victimization

Psychological stress; physical harm (sometimes death);

Physical harm (death), extinction of

Severe physical harm (including death);

Physical harm (often death) deprivation of

Physical harm

Physical harm (sometimes death), economic harm

release of toxins into environment

species; economic costs

economic

harm

freedom, economic harm

Facilitating

factors

Initially weak laws; weak enforcement; corruption

Difficulty of monitoring; lack of enforcement

Legal loopholes; difficulty of monitoring

Legal loopholes; complexity of CITES treaty; low

prioritization

Weak rule of law; corruption; weak state capacity

Weak rule of law; corruption; authoritarianism

Level of law enforcement

Weak, getting stronger; important role for NGOs

Weak

Weak in Europe; getting stronger in China

Varies from country to country; generally low priority, important role for NGOs

Weak

Negligible, key role for NGOs

Crime

prevention

Minimal

Potentially strong (rights- based management)

Waste reduction; public campaigns

Reduce demand (currently weak);

increase punishment for awareness and deterrence

Minimal

Absent

EU role in fighting environmental crime

Relatively strong (ECD)

Relatively strong (CFP)

Relatively

strong

Currently weak; potentially strong

Potentially strong (Stabilisation and Association Agreement)

Limited, unlikely to

increase much (despite ENP)

crime is therefore arbitrary. Stefes and Theodoratos encourage us to take a broader view which directs our attention to the environmentally harmful behaviour that already takes place at the law-making stage. Yet, irrespective of the conceptual approach the authors have taken in their studies for this volume, the case studies primarily focus on environmentally harmful behaviour that is punishable by law.

All instances of environmental crime investigated in this volume from the illegal disposal and trafficking of electronic and hazardous waste to illegal mining cause considerable economic, physical, and psychological harm to humans and wildlife. As several authors point out, environmental crime also often entails a slew of other crimes such as money laundering, theft, and corruption (see, for instance, Chap. 6). It is therefore puzzling how minor the penalties for offenders usually are, ranging from a fine to a few years in prison. Criminals only have to fear tougher penalties if they are convicted of other crimes that are perpetrated in the process of committing an environmental crime. For instance, in every case analysed, organized crime plays a considerable role, which is not surprising taking into account that high profit margins and low risk of detection attract criminal organizations (e.g. Chaps. 3 and 5). In many countries, being convicted of membership in a criminal organization often incurs a lengthy prison sentence. It therefore makes a difference whether the same crime is committed by an individual or a member of a criminal organization.

The extent to which environmental crime is often organized owes much to the fact that environmental crime frequently crosses borders, often many borders. The logistics of transnational environmental crime requires the involvement and coordination of dozens of different actors, ranging from otherwise legal businesses and private citizens to organized crime groups and corrupt officials (see Chap. 5). Of course, environmental crime almost always has a transnational dimension. For instance, air and water pollution crosses borders and foreign companies commit environmental crime in their host countries. Yet, even if we conceive the transnational dimension of environmental crime narrowly—that is, the criminal activity itself crosses borders—it is striking how prevalent transnational environmental crime is. Five of our six case studies indicate a transnational dimension (the exception is the Land of Fires case study) and of those five, three are truly global in scope (IUU fishery, e-waste shipment, and wildlife trafficking).

 
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