Briefs: Illegal refrigerants

Over 108 tonnes of illegal refrigerant have been seized by customs officers around the world in a special operation code-named Sky-hole Patching II. The joint operation by the World Customs Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) over a 6-month period ending in November 2010 led to the confiscation of more than 7500 cylinders of CFCs, HCFCs and other ozone-depleting substances (ODS). A number of seizures were reported from Europe, Africa and Central Asia, but the majority of seizures took place in the Asia/Pacific region, notably in China, Thailand, Hong Kong, China and India. Two large seizures were a total of 1200 cylinders of ODS by Thai customs officials and the prevention of the export of 44 tons of HCFCs in two incidents by French customs. Organized crime has been implicated in much of the smuggling, a good example being the seized shipment in the Gambia of several dozen cylinders of CFCs and two tonnes of cocaine smuggled from South America.