UK & World News

  • 5 December 2012, 18:54

Eight Convicted Of Toxic Waste Dump Scam

A man who illegally dumped tons of toxic waste in west Africa after exporting it from the UK has been convicted and fined following a Sky News investigation.

Joseph Benson, 52, was one of eight defendants prosecuted after a four-year inquiry and two criminal trials involving Interpol and the Environment Agency.

The men claimed to be running licensed companies which charged local councils to recycle thousands of broken computers, fridges and televisions left at waste disposal sites.

But the businesses were a front for illicit operations which instead smuggled the waste to Nigeria, Ghana and Pakistan - where most of it was dumped in landfill.

In 2008, Sky News concealed a tracking device inside a broken television before leaving it at a council-owned recycling site in Basingstoke.

The unit was collected and tracked to BJ Electronics, Benson's warehouse in east London, where it was seen being loaded on to a shipping container with hundreds of other e-waste items.

The container was "dressed" at the edges with working televisions to deceive customs officers if it was intercepted.

The cargo was tracked to Tilbury Docks before being shipped to Lagos, Nigeria, where it was located and retrieved by a Sky reporter working with Greenpeace.

Benson was arrested and inquiries by the Environment Agency led to UK shipping agent Orient Exports, which facilitated the shipments.

The company was discovered to be processing hundreds of tons of e-waste exports for other UK companies operating in a similar manner to Benson's.

Containers exported from these firms were intercepted by Environment Agency investigators and customs officers, who discovered they also contained e-waste.

Defendants from these companies were charged and convicted of 39 offences relating to the illegal export of toxic waste to developing countries.

Four of the men, including Benson, were convicted in 2011 but the sentencing can only now be reported after their convictions were upheld following an appeal and restrictions were lifted.

Benson was fined 48,000. Fellow defendants Godwin Ezeemo, of Orient Exports, Thurrock, was fined 18,000 and Nnamdi Chinedu Ezechukwu of Reliant Exports, Dagenham, was fined 12,000.

Two men - Chika Ezeemo, of Orient Exports, Thurrock, and Stuart McGuigan, of Ady's Skips, Tudenham, were given conditional discharges. McGuigan entered an early guilty plea

In the second trial, three men pleaded guilty to offences.

Krassimir Vangelov, of KSV in Sussex was fined 112,000. Michael Aulakh Singh, of Thorn International in Birmingham, was fined 25,715 and Adrian Thompson, of Ady's Skips in Tudenham was fined 4,415.

Nigeria receives 500 tons of e-waste every day to feed the country's thriving second-hand computer industry.

But the trade is illegal and creates mountains of e-waste which threatens the health of residents in Lagos.

Electronic components contain some of the most harmful chemicals known to man. Once discarded, lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium can leach into the ground and contaminate the water supply.

Children on vast e-waste sites make a living scavenging for working items while building fires to burn away the plastic on cables to get at the valuable copper - putting them at risk from the highly toxic fumes.

Only 450,000 tons of the estimated one million tonnes of e-waste produced in Britain each year is recycled within the UK, leaving more than 500,000 tons unaccounted for.

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