Dutch company implicated in waste smuggling haul

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China has arrested seven people on charges of smuggling over 4,000 of tons of toxic waste from the Netherlands from December to March. The waste was intercepted following a tip from the Dutch justice ministry.

Among those arrested are the managers of a Taiwanese and a Chinese company which purchased an originally Dutch shipment of recyclable paper that was allegedly mixed with household chemical waste.

China ordered at least 30 shipping containers sent back to Rotterdam because their contents exceeded contamination limits. Import documents stated that the containers held recyclable waste paper, but customs officials who inspected the goods suffered severe respiratory and skin infections, the Xinhua news agency quoted Economic Information, an official publication, as saying.

The 30 containers originally belonged to Van Puijfelik, B.V., a Dutch company based in the city of Breda. Chinese officials say the cargo containing waste paper and household toxic chemicals were purchased by a Taiwanese company which in turn sold them to a Chinese firm.

Xinhua reports that the three companies conspired to make false claims about the contents of the shipment. The news agency says the Chinese firm that bought the cargo picked out the recyclable paper and plastics for reselling and then dumped the remaining waste, including scrapped computer parts and batteries, 'in huge piles' with no regard for environmental concerns.

'Innocent case'
A lawyer representing Van Puijfelik, B.V. has confirmed Chinese reports that officials in Zhangjiagang ordered the containers sent back to Rotterdam and that the cargo is the target of a Dutch criminal investigation. However, he denies that the company is involved in the transport or sale of toxic waste. The lawyer says Van Puijfelik has suffered enormous financial damage due to the case. According to him, it is a 'bureaucratic' and 'relatively innocent' case that 'has nothing to do with environmental safety or public health.'

Company suspected

The two directors of Van Puijfelik, B.V. were arrested in a high-profile raid last December. They were released after three days of questioning. Dutch authorities claimed Van Puijfelik had packed non-recyclable waste from Great Britain and Ireland in recyclable paper so it could be exported to countries in Asia. The two directors are still suspects, the Dutch Public Prosecutor has told Radio Netherlands.