Page last updated at 22:03 GMT, Thursday, 23 July 2009 23:03 UK

UK arrests in toxic waste probe

Brazilian environmental officials examine British waste at a cargo terminal at Guaruja near Sao Paulo
The illegal exporting of waste carries a maximum two-year jail sentence

UK officials investigating an illegal shipment of 1,400 tonnes of toxic waste to Brazil have made three arrests.

Environment Agency officers and police raided three properties in the Swindon area, arresting men aged 24, 28 and 49.

The UK is working with Brazil to return the contents of 99 containers to Britain. The waste reportedly includes syringes, condoms and bags of blood.

The Brazilian government has said it will lodge a formal complaint to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

It wants an investigation into whether the 1992 Basel Convention on the movement of hazardous waste has been violated. Both countries are signatories.

'Unlimited fines'

Brazil wants the origin of the containers traced and to find out how they ended up in three Brazilian ports - Santos, near Sao Paulo and two others in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul.

For legal reasons, the three men arrested cannot be identified.

The Environment Agency... will not hesitate to prosecute any company or individuals found to have breached the strict laws on the export of waste
Liz Parkes, Environment Agency

The Environment Agency said it could not confirm Brazilian claims that at least two of the shipping containers held a mixture of household and clinical waste, including syringes and condoms.

It said it plans to search through the rubbish once it has been returned to the UK and ensure it is handled and disposed of properly.

Head of waste Liz Parkes said the arrests marked "significant progress" in the investigation.

She said: "The Environment Agency enforces the export of recyclable waste from England and Wales, and will not hesitate to prosecute any company or individuals found to have breached the strict laws on the export of waste.

"The United Kingdom has taken a strong global lead to stamp out the illegal waste trade, in order to protect people and the environment."

The maximum penalty for illegally exporting waste is an unlimited fine or two years in prison.

Roberto Messias, president of the Brazilian environment agency, Ibama, has said Brazil is "not a big rubbish dump of the world".



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SEE ALSO
Brazil demands return of UK waste
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Brazil anger over toxic UK waste
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