Owners and employees of a string of waste disposal companies fined over £200,000 for exporting dumped electronics to the developing world

The men were found to have been at the heart of a lucrative trade which sends tonnes of waste computers and other consumer durables to west Africa and Asia

Owners and employees of a string of waste disposal companies have been fined more than £200,000 following Britain's largest investigation into the illegal export of toxic dumped electronics to the developing world.

The eight men, whose firm’s operated across the country, were found to have been at the heart of a lucrative trade which sends tonnes of waste computers and other consumer durables to west Africa and Asia every year to be stripped of valuable metals in grim conditions, often by children.

One of the company owners, Joseph Benson, whose BJ Electronics toured civic waste sites picking up electronic goods to be sent illegally to Nigeria from east London, was convicted following an investigation by The Independent, Sky News and Greenpeace.

Mr Benson, 52, whose company was shown by The Independent to have sent a broken and therefore unexportable television set to the Nigerian commercial capital, Lagos, pleaded guilty to breaking waste export laws last November after initially denying any wrongdoing. His fine of £11,000 can only be reported following the conclusion of linked trials last month at Basildon Crown Court in Essex.

The landmark case follows a four-year investigation by the  Environment Agency into the burgeoning trade in “e-waste” which sees thousands of tonnes of defunct products, including computers with confidential information on intact hard drives, being sent from the industrialised world to developing countries. Although there is a lawful trade in functioning second-hand goods, it is illegal under European and international law to export electronic goods which no longer function.

Andy Higham, head of the agency’s national crime team, said: “This confirms the legal position on exporting electronic waste to developing countries. Sending hazardous waste to developing countries is unacceptable  and our teams will continue to track down and stop those who risk damaging human health and the environment.”

The investigation centred on a shipping agent, Orient Exports, based in Thurrock, Essex, which was found to have sent a dozen 40ft-long shipping containers filled with hazardous electrical waste destined for Nigeria until they were intercepted at Felixstowe, Tilbury and a Belgian cargo facility.

The contents and other illegal shipments were then traced back to ten firms posing as lawful waste companies which in reality were flouting environmental laws by collecting material for export from civic waste tips and recycling sites. The firms operated across the country, from Sussex and Norfolk, to Birmingham, Leicester, Leeds and the North West.

Some of the seized shipping containers had an initial layer of legitimate working computers behind which was concealed tonnes of broken and discarded material.

Among the 450 tonnes of electronics that the companies, who were not linked or acting together, attempted to ship for dumping in Nigeria, Ghana and Pakistan were broken computers and monitors, fridges, televisions, drills and lightbulbs.

A total of 11 company owners and employees tracked down by investigators pleaded guilty to breaking international waste shipment regulations during two separate sets of proceedings.

At a sentencing hearing today, the largest fine - £112,000 - was handed to Krassimir Vangelov, owner of KSV Sussex and known in the waste trade as "Bulgarian Kris".

Godwin Ezeemo, owner of Orient Exports, was fined £18,000 and his son Chika, who worked for the company, was given a two year conditional discharge.

The involvement of Mr Benson, who is a Nigerian national, and his company in e-waste export was exposed by The Independent in 2009 after a tracking device was placed inside a television which had been deliberately damaged beyond use.

The television was traced to a market in Lagos next to a dump site where children can be found breaking down computer components loaded with heavy metals and burning the plastic housing from cables. Mr Benson and BJ Electronics were last year fined a total of £50,000.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
A rub on the tummy sprang Casey back to life
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little