Interpol aids 'McMafia' illegal waste dumping in Scotland crackdown

Environmental officers are looking to Italy to crack down on a "McMafia" which is profiting from illegal waste disposal in Scotland.

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Gangs use violence to secure waste disposal contracts, cut corners and fiddle taxes using similar tactics to Mafia clans in southern Italy, Holyrood's Justice Committee has heard.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) is liaising with international crime fighters to tackle organised environmental crime.

Committee convener Christine Grahame said: "People just don't believe that we have like a McMafia here, that serious organised crime perhaps is so clever in Scotland that they just don't think it's happening at that level."

Sepa national waste and enforcement manager William Wilson said: "Is Scotland a soft touch? I would say it is not. Is there more to be done? Definitely. How do we compare with other countries? Better than a number.

"Italy have a well-entrenched problem with Mafia clans, particularly within the waste sector in the southern half of the country. They are anxious to do more in relation to that.

"They have seen the export of that criminal model beyond the Italian borders, into eastern Europe in particular.

"We as an agency are in touch with Interpol and Europol, we're partners within the policing working group and we are anxious to take part in initiatives that will look to learn from best practice and maybe the bitter experience of other countries and share that."

Sepa is analysing why waste is such an attractive option for organised crimes, and looking at what types of waste are particularly attractive.

One particular tactic involves mixing low tax waste which costs £2.50 a tonne, with high tax waste which costs £80 a tonne to dispose of to avoid paying tax.

Stephen Freeland, policy executive at the Scottish Environment Services Association, said: "I see five types of sites. You've either got a fully illegal landfill site, and illegal recycling operation, you've got a licensed site that is deliberately abusing its conditions for financial gain, you've also got a licensed site operating as a front for illegal activity, and you've got a fifth one which deliberate misclassification of materials to benefit from lower tax rates."

Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable Ruaridh Nicolson said: "Organised crime is unlikely just to be involved in environmental crime.

"They will have firearms, drugs, everything else you can think of. They are about making money, so it's about the threat, risk and harm to communities.

"It's about territory and they will use violence, that is their competitive advantage... So they undermine, or they undercut, contracts in terms of finance, but they also use violence and other facets to make sure that they get these contracts."

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