Illegal UK vehicle imports discovered at scrap yard in Villagarcía de Arousa

12 people arrested and investigated in cross-border operation

by Lorraine Williamson
scrap yard involved in illegal operations

The Guardia Civil, in collaboration with the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), has arrested and investigated 12 individuals involved in the unauthorised import and management of vehicles at a scrap yard in Villagarcía de Arousa, Pontevedra.

The operation, named “Dashboard,” revealed the scrap yard processed over 5,000 vehicles in five years with minimal recovery of hazardous fluids from air conditioning systems, which contribute to global warming.

Discovery and investigation

The investigation began when fiscal specialists from the Guardia Civil detected trucks arriving at the Port of Santander with vehicles from the UK destined for the Villagarcía de Arousa scrap yard. These shipments also arrived at other Spanish ports and through the Eurotunnel in Calais, France. Since Brexit, 424 vehicles (over 600,000 kilograms of scrap) arrived in Spain for this scrap yard.

The Guardia Civil coordinated with OLAF’s Illicit Trafficking, Health, and Environment Unit. This collaboration confirmed that the scrap yard had been receiving both foreign and domestic vehicles without the necessary environmental permits.

Environmental and health risks

The scrap yard’s operations posed significant environmental and health risks. Many vehicles retained hazardous residues, such as oils, brake fluids, and air conditioning fluids, which should have been properly recovered and managed by an authorised entity. The presence of these fluids, including tetrafluoroethanes, contributes to global warming and poses a threat to natural systems and human health due to their long atmospheric life of 14 years.

Illegal storage of tyres

During the investigation, authorities discovered over 4,000 used tyres in an agricultural warehouse linked to the scrap yard. The owner lacked authorisation for storing and selling these tyres, posing a significant fire risk due to the volume and the warehouse’s location in a forested area.

Legal proceedings

The final phase of the operation took place last week in the provinces of Pontevedra and León, resulting in seven arrests and five individuals being investigated. The charges include crimes against natural resources and the environment, falsification of vehicle destruction and decontamination certificates, money laundering, tax fraud, and membership in a criminal organisation.

Vehicles destined for scrapping from the UK must have proper communications and authorisations from Spanish environmental authorities. This scrap yard lacked such permits.

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