Patricia Adams
Financial Post
Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Attempts to create markets for tradeable CO2 are shaping up to be the next Oil-for-Food-sized fraud.

Deloitte Forensic calls it “the white collar crime of the future.” Kroll, a business risk subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan, the global professional services firm, calls it “a fraudster’s dream come true.”

These two global financial services firms are referring to carbon trading markets, a business that is estimated to explode from $132-billion in 2009, mostly in the European Union, to $3-trillion by 2020 as jurisdictions around the world join in carbon trading, part of the “cap and trade” system that governments are embracing.

Under cap and trade, companies need permits for the right to emit CO2 as part of their operations. The permits, in effect, guarantee that excess carbon emissions will be “offset” by third parties that will, for example, sequester carbon by growing trees. These permits, which are being traded on carbon exchanges, akin to stock exchanges, have caught the attention of law enforcement officers, who have seen an upsurge in fraud.

Says Chris Perryman of Europol’s Criminal Finances and Technology section in The Hague, in referring to the $7.4-billion in fraud that have occurred in the last 18 months in the EU’s carbon market: “It is clear that [carbon trading] fraudsters are fully aware of the potential that trading in intangible commodities has to further their ends. Such goods or services can be traded without the need to be physically moved or transported, which represents an obvious opportunity to frustrate Law Enforcement efforts to track and trace transactions.” So much fraud has been occurring that, Europol estimates, up to 90% of all carbon market volume in some EU nations was related to fraudulent activities.

Full article here