NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 14, 2009

Carbon trading fraudsters may have accounted for up to 90 percent of all market activity in some European countries, with criminals pocketing an estimated $7.3 billion, mainly in Britain, France, Spain, Denmark and Holland, according to Europol, the European law enforcement agency.

The revelation caused embarrassment for European Union (EU) negotiators at the Copenhagen climate change summit last week, where they have been pushing for an expansion of their system across the globe to penalize heavy emitters of carbon dioxide:

  • Suspicions about an unprecedented level of carbon crime over the last 18 months have led investigators to believe criminals are using "missing trader" techniques to buy up carbon credits elsewhere in Europe where there is a cheaper rate of value added tax (VAT).
  • Then they sell on the credits in the United Kingdom, charging the domestic rate, and pocket the difference; this has been commonplace among trading of very mobile commodities across European borders, such as phones, computer chips and cigarettes.
  • British investigators made seven arrests earlier this year over a suspected $62 million VAT scam.

Europol said it had reason to believe the sophisticated techniques developed in the carbon market could soon migrate to the gas and electricity sectors.  Figures from New Energy Finance show the value of the global market falling from $38 billion in the second quarter to $30 billion in the three months to the end of September after several countries cracked down, with volumes falling from 2.1 billion tons to 1.7 billion tons.

Europol has now set up a special unit to "identify and disrupt the organized criminal structures behind these fraud schemes."

Source: Rowena Mason, "Copenhagen climate summit: Carbon trading fraudsters in Europe pocket €5bn," Telegraph, December 10, 2009.

For text: 


Browse more articles on Environment Issues