The Environment Agency steps up efforts to tackle money laundering

Written 18th March 2024 by James Claughton

The Environment Agency has recently established a new Economic Crime Unit aimed at addressing the issue of money laundering and to conduct financial investigations in the waste sector. 

New Economic Crime Unit

The new unit is designed to assist those involved in the waste management sector and prevent criminals from operating in this area. Previously the Environment Agency Financial Investigations Team identified money and assets to be seized. Now the Environment Agency has partnered with other bodies in law enforcement to grow this department into the Economic Crime Unit. 

The unit will be comprised of Accredited Financial Investigators, Accredited Financial Intelligence Officers and a Financial Crime Analyst. This will enable the Environment Agency to have a greater appreciation of financial crime and to take a hands on approach in investigating. 

The unit will be made up of two teams: the Asset Denial Team and the Money Laundering Investigations Team.  

The Asset Denial Team

The Asset Denial Team will be centred around account freezing orders, cash seizures, pre-charge restraints and confiscations. They will be able to freeze monies held in accounts suspected to be being used to hold proceeds of crime; the account holder will be required to prove that the source of the funds is legitimate and if not then the monies will be forfeited. 

The Money Laundering Investigations Team

The Money Laundering Investigations Team will allow the Environment Agency to carry out thorough money laundering investigations with a specific focus  on environmental offences. Money laundering offences can carry lengthy prison sentences which provides a deterrent for offenders. 

The Chair of the Environmental Agency said that launching the new unit shows that it will not accept criminals moving into the waste sector. He said the following: 

“Waste crime is a blight on communities and our environment. By undermining legitimate business investment, it costs our economy an estimated £1 billion every year – money being taken away from other essential services to deal with the damage caused by waste criminals. 

The Environment Agency is committed to taking tough action and the launch of our dedicated Economic Crime Unit shows we will not tolerate organised criminals moving into the waste sector and using it to facilitate other crimes.” 

The Environmental Agency’s most recent national survey on waste crime found that 18% of all waste in England, approximately 34 million tonnes, was understood to have been managed illegally. 

The creation of the new unit was welcomed by the Environmental Services Association (ESA), the trade body for the UK’s recycling and waste management industry. 

ESA executive director, Jacob Hayler, said the following: 

“From fly-tipping to landfill tax evasion, waste crime is fundamentally a financial crime predicated on avoiding the cost of proper waste treatment in pursuit of maximum profit – leaving society and the natural environment to foot the bill while undermining legitimate business.  

For too long, criminals operating in our sector have viewed enforcement and criminal penalties as an acceptable cost of business, so the ESA and its members very much welcome the Environment Agency’s new financial investigatory efforts, alongside tougher asset-denial measures to demonstrate that crime in our sector doesn’t pay.’’ 


The Economic Crime Unit will use and build upon existing relationships the Environment Agency already has in place with the likes of the police and HM Revenue and Customs. 

If you or your business are facing an Environmental Agency investigation or the possibility of a prosecution and wish to speak to one of our team, please contact us at the earliest opportunity for a confidential discussion. We are able to represent you wherever you are based across England and Wales We offer our services on an hourly rate or fixed fee basis and have worked with many of the leading insurance providers, therefore are always willing to discuss such matters with your Legal Expenses Insurance (LEI) provider where appropriate.

James Claughton

James Claughton



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