OzonAction’s Montreal Protocol Network for Europe and Central Asia (ECA network) rewards OLAF for tackling illicit imports of HFCs
Illicit trade is one of the biggest policy challenges worldwide undermining the achievement of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)  and exposing consumers unregulated and unsafe products. In the past years, EFCTC has focused the attention on the illegal trade of HFCs, substances covered by the F-Gas Regulation  which aims to reduce the environmental (CO2) impact of refrigerant products and combat climate change.
The F-Gas Regulation progressively reduces the quantity of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) place on the EU market through a quota system. An unintended side effect of the quota system and the supply limitation has been one of the causes leading to an increase of illegal trade of HFCs into the EU. The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has been active in tackling illicit imports of HFCs since 2018 as this is one of their operational priorities. The work and success over the past three years have been recognised by the OzonAction’s Montreal Protocol Network for Europe and Central Asia (ECA network) and by Customs and Enforcement Officers from Bulgaria, China, France, Georgia, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Spain, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan as well as the European Commission.
According to the official UNEP press, in the period 2019-2020, 64 seizures were reported, including 14,617 refrigerant cylinders/ISO containers with more than 380 metric tons of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), and 215 pieces of equipment.
The winners will receive the prestigious Montreal Protocol prizes for addressing illegal or trade in ozone-depleting substances and fluorinated global warming substances controlled under the Montreal Protocol and its Kigali Amendment. A virtual award ceremony organised by the OzonAction’s Montreal Protocol Network for Europe and Central Asia (ECA network) is scheduled for March 2023.
This successful story highlights the benefits to international co-operation to tackle illegal trade. The close collaboration of relevant competent authorities such as enforcement agencies, police, customs, financial intelligence units, facilitate complex investigations against organized criminal activities.