Check out the two maps below to see the most recent situation in Europe: where have illegal HFCs been seized recently, and which actions are governments taking?
How Europe is tackling illegal activity
Step by step, Europe is locking the door on criminals who try to import HFCs illegally into the EU.
Actions by the European Commission, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), and several EU Member States have led to a broader recognition of the illegal trade, tightened enforcement in some Member States, and many seizures.
This map shows the most recent situation in Europe where illegal HFCs have been seized.
Enforcement measures across Europe
OLAF is a European Union body which – amongst other things – detects and investigates illicit goods coming from outside the EU. They work to prevent trade in products that could be harmful to the security and safety of people and the environment and cooperate with authorities to stop them from coming onto the market.
When OLAF first started working on this problem, the team identified loopholes which were being exploited by criminal organisations. Up to 90% of smuggled HFCs is linked to abuses to the T1 transit procedure, whereby shipments which are meant to travel through the EU are being diverted and sold illegally within the member states.
A lot of OLAF’s success has been built on bridging the customs systems in member states with the EU’s F-gas quota portal. This enables them to see if a company importing HFCs is registered as a legitimate quota-holder. In future, these two systems will work together automatically, making it easier to detect smuggled products more quickly through the Single Window System under development by the Commission and the Member States. They also identified shell companies established only for purpose of smuggling non-refillable cylinders which are prohibited in the EU and evading VAT.
OLAF’s work is undoubtedly helping to prevent illegally traded HFCs as they work to intercept shipments across Europe. The black market is not slowing down – illegal shipments and OLAF alerts have skyrocketed since COVID – but OLAF is constantly improving their methods. Increased awareness and cooperation are enabling them to gather significant amounts of intelligence, with one or two alerts passed onto member states every day in September 2020 alone.
Data from EFCTC Action Line investigations showed that in 2021, the overall successful removal rate of illicit online listings was 99.5%. A total of 1,595 infringements were reported during this year, of which 1,587 were successfully removed.
How Europe is responding
Thanks to tighter enforcement in several EU member states, criminals are successfully being deterred. According to Europol, F-gases worth more than €10 million were seized by EU cross-border and multi-agency actions in a sinlge week in 2021.
Further harmonisation of these stronger enforcement measures across Europe will ensure that no HFCs are traded illegally across EU borders any longer.
This map shows the action individual EU member states are taking to tackle the illegal trade of HFCs.
You can help track down the criminals behind this illegal trade, by reporting suspicious activity to the EFCTC Action Line.