Brothers jailed for e-waste recycling fraud

The Environment Agency’s specialist crime unit has prosecuted two brothers over an electronic waste fraud scheme, leading to custodial sentences.

Between January 2011 and December 2012, Jamil Rehman – director of Electronic Waste Specialists (EWS) Ltd – submitted false claims for the recycling of 10,600 tonnes of electronic waste. The Birmingham-based company received payments of £1.48m from a producer compliance scheme called Weeelight Ltd.

Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) recycling is a highly specialist part of the recycling industry. Responsible management of e-waste is vital for minimising the amount going to landfill; e-waste often contains harmful bioaccumulative toxins such as lead, which cause serious environmental damage. However, only a small fraction of e-waste is recycled globally, with huge quantities being underhandedly transferred into parts of Africa. UK producers and distributors of e-waste are subject to 2013 regulations laying out their responsibilities in law.

This fraudulent scheme was uncovered when the Environment Agency’s National Investigations Team became suspicious of the paperwork that EWS had submitted. After Rehman argued that he was not fit to plead, the unit carried out a surveillance operation to demonstrate otherwise.

At a January 2019 hearing, Rehman pleaded guilty to one charge of fraudulent trading. His brother, Saleem Rehman, pleaded guilty to one charge of theft, stealing £36,000 for holidays, school fees and car hire from the company account. They were both given custodial sentences (of five years and four months, and 16 months suspended for two years, respectively) at Birmingham Crown Court in December. Jamil Rehman was also disqualified from acting as a company director for 10 years.

“The Environment Agency has a specialist crime unit using intelligence to track and prosecute organised crime groups involved in illegal waste activity,” the officer in charge of the investigation said. “This case sends out a clear message that we will not hesitate to take action against anyone operating illegally.”

“Waste crime is a serious issue diverting as much as £1bn per annum from legitimate business and the Treasury. Since April 2011 the Environment Agency has invested £65.2m in tackling it.”

EWS Ltd went into voluntary liquidation in 2014 with debts of over £116,000.

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