Environmental crime is one of the most lucrative forms of criminal activity. The illegal dumping of hazardous waste, trafficking of dangerous substances and smuggling of protected natural resources is estimated to be worth between EUR18 and EUR25 billion per year. The trafficking of endangered species generates the highest revenue of all types of environmental crime and is widely considered to be second in value only to drug trafficking. Environmental crime is believed to be expanding constantly. In spite of this, it is not currently a political priority, having taken a back seat to anti-terrorism measures since 11 September 2001.
This article aims to show that environmental crime is one of the most serious forms of criminal activity - it threatens the very existence of mankind. In order to do this, the article begins by advancing a definition of environmental crime, which is intended to allow the reader better to understand its implications for our society. An attempt is then made to provide a financial estimate of the worldwide value of this criminal activity, in order to shed light on its scale and diversity. Next, the article examines various examples from European Union (?EU?) countries (Member States and candidate countries) in order to illustrate the ways in which police combat environmental crime. Examples of international cooperation in this field are also provided. Finally, the article proposes a number of possible paths for future action which might push environmental crime up the criminal law and crime-fighting policy agenda in EU Member States and EU policy as a whole. In this respect, the recent judgment by the European Court of Justice (?ECJ?) concerning European Community competence in criminal law provides interesting material for reflection.European Energy and Environmental Law Review