New Environmental Crimes Introduced: Time to Update Your Corporate Compliance Program!

On May 19, 2015 the Italian Senate passed bill no. 1345-B, introducing new environmental crimes. The law will become effective the day after its publication on the Official Gazette, following promulgation by the President of the Republic. The law introduces the following environmental crimes in the form of delitti (i.e. the most serious form of crimes), punishable with imprisonment and fines. It is important to note that such crimes are included among the crimes that give rise to criminal corporate liability pursuant to Legislative Decree 231/2001 (“Decree”).  As a result, companies who have already set up an organizational and control model aimed at exempting it from criminal corporate liability must update it in order to take into account prevention of the newly introduced criminal conducts. The new crimes can be described as follows:

  • Polluting.    Anyone who unlawfully damages or jeopardizes in a significant and measurable way waters, air, the surface or the underground, as well as ecosystems, plants or animals, is punishable with imprisonment between 2 and 6 years plus a fine between Euro 10,000.00 and 100,000.00. Sanctions may be higher in case of pollution of protected areas (such as historical sites) or protected plants or animal species. Also, imprisonment can reach as far as 20 years in case of death or injury as a consequence of pollution. As far as companies are concerned, commission of such crime leads to the imposition of monetary sanction between 250 and 600 quotas as per the Decree. Blacklisting sanctions set forth in the Decree may also apply.
  • Environmental disaster. This crime punishes, alternatively, the irreversible alteration of an ecosystem’s equilibrium, the alteration of an ecosystem’s equilibrium the restoring of which is particularly burdensome or can be achieved only by extraordinary measures, or the offense to public safety in light of its effects or the number of people affected. The mentioned conducts are punishable with imprisonment between 5 and 15 years. Also in this case, if protected areas or species are damaged, imprisonment can be increased by one third. The commission of such crime by a company leads to the imposition of monetary sanctions between 400 and 800 quotas, as per the Decree. Also in this case, blacklisting sanctions may apply.
  • Trafficking and disposal of highly radioactive materials.                       Unlawful sale, purchase, receipt, transportation, importation, exportation, supply, detention, transfer and disposal of highly radioactive materials are punished with imprisonment between 2 and 6 years, plus a fine between Euro 10,000.00 and 50,000.00. Sanctions may be increased in case of danger of damage or deterioration of waters, air, the surface or the underground, as well as ecosystems, plants or animals. Also, if any of the conducts jeopardizes the life or safety of individuals, sanctions may be increased by one half. Companies may be punished with monetary sanctions between 250 and 600 quotas in accordance with the Decree.
  • Hindered control. Hindrance of vigilance and control activities on environment, hygiene and safety on the workplace is punished with imprisonment between 6 months and 3 years.

If the above crimes are committed in the form of organized crime, sanctions already set forth against organized crime are increased by one third, and, if companies are involved, they may face sanctions between 300 and 1000 quotas as per the Decree. Sanctions are increased by one third to one half in case any public official or person in charge of a public service carrying out environmental-related offices partakes in the criminal organization. Not only the law provides for new crimes, but it also incentivizes remedial actions. Sanctions are in fact diminished by one half to two thirds in case remedial actions are taken to prevent occurrence of further consequences or to restore the status quo ante. Also, whistle-blowing is incentivized by reducing sanctions by one third to one half. Quite interestingly, the law prevents the statute of limitations from running in case of stay of proceedings ordered to allow remedial actions to be taken. Lastly, failure to take remedial actions, if ordered by a judge or by the law, is punished with imprisonment between one and four years plus a fine between Euro 20,000.00 to 80,000.00.

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