Chinese companies and individuals fined over 1 million for smuggling copper sludge

Source: Global Times Published: 2020/12/25 22:39:15

Officials from Hangzhou Customs check the imported waste in May, 2017 in East China's Zhejiang Province. File Photo: VCG

 Two Chinese companies and two Chinese nationals were ordered on Friday by the Shanghai High People’s Court to pay 1.05 million yuan ($160,533) in disposal fee, after a seizure of 138.66 tons of copper sludge smuggled from overseas in the name of copper ore.

In early 2015, Qian Weidong, the legal representative of Langxi Huayuan solid waste disposal company, made a deal with Huang Decheng and Xue Qiang in Kunshan of East China’s Jiangsu Province to buy copper sludge from overseas.

After that, Xue arranged the import of “goods” via overseas companies in South Korea for Huayuan Company. Huayuan Company then paid over 450,000 yuan to Mitai Company in Ningbo of East China’s Zhejiang Province.

Part of the money was later paid to Huang Decheng to declare the imports at the Shanghai Port.

Huang then made a false declaration, reporting 138.66 tons of copper sludge as copper ore. But Shanghai customs seized the goods, which were later stranded in the port.

In September 2018, Mitai Company, its legal representative Huang, and Xue were handed fines ranging from 50,000 yuan to 300,000 yuan, and prison terms from two to four years respectively, for smuggling waste.

In June 2019, a court ordered Mitai Company, Huang, Xue and Huayuan Company to pay the disposal fees for the illegally imported solid waste, which was assessed to be worth more than 1.05 million yuan, in a civil lawsuit filed by the procuratorate.

Huayuan Company refused to accept the verdict and appealed to the Shanghai High People’s Court.

However, the Shanghai High People’s Court upheld the original verdict in the trial on Friday. “With regard to solid waste that is banned from import but has entered the border illegally, the infringers should bear civil responsibility for eliminating the hazards, even if it has not caused actual ecological environmental damage,” the court said in the announcement. 

The copper sludge and waste iron slag involved in this case are slags and residues from industrial production that are included in China’s catalogue of prohibited imports of solid wastes.

The case, concerning environmental civil public interest litigation over waste from overseas, also called "foreign garbage," is the first of its kind in China, according to an announcement by the court. The verdict has settled a traditional dilemma that the government has to pay for the pollution caused by garbage smuggling. 

China kicked off a nationwide campaign to prohibit garbage from entering the country in 2017, aiming to totally ban the imports of solid waste in any form by the end of 2020. 

Qiu Qiwen, an official from China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment, told the media recently that the goal of zero import of solid waste by the end of 2020 will soon be achieved.

In 2016, the solid waste imports nationwide stood at 46.55 million tons. The number dropped to 42.27 million tons in 2017, 22.63 million in 2018 and 13.48 million in 2019. As of November 15, 2020, it dropped to 7.18 million tons, Qiu noted.

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