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Topics related to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive materials are increasingly being discussed in today´s society. Their connection with crime leads us to another dimension, which necessarily requires deeper investigation. This significantly affects several types of crime, including environmental crime, because they are closely related to each other. From practice, we feel that there is no comprehensive (and) global view of law enforcement activities in the existing complex CBRN-E crime. We also perceive the shortcomings in the standard operational procedures of security forces for CBRN-E incidents, which must be regularly updated in connection with emerging technologies. These shortcomings often stem from the different terminology from which many activities are derived. This applies in particular to CBRN police units, teams such as SWAT, EOD, K9, special operation teams (undercover), security and protection forces, CSI-forensics, public order police, environmental police, and anti-narcotics force, etc. Literature writes mostly about CBRN-E terrorism, and only a minimal amount of information on wide range of CBRN-E crimes is mentioned. Therefore, linking this topic only to terrorism is not relevant today. It is necessary to perceive this phenomenon in a broader context. The aim of this article is to present the results of our comparative study related to the definitions of CBRN-E and HazMat materials, threats, and incidents. In the article, we also propose our own definition and categorization of CBRN-E crime, including related concepts based on our examination of real cases around the world, a study of the literature, legislation and history. Another aim of this paper is to create a basis for in-depth qualitative and quantitative research by the ISEM Institute related to the prevalence of CBRN-E crime in selected countries, as well as a framework for a deep case comparative study. In the final part of the article, we will focus on the motivation, motive and intents in committing CBRN-E crime using specific analysed cases, which may be used in the future in the investigation of similar cases and case linkage.
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Picture: ISEMI
JUNE 2021
CBRN-E crime
and offenders'
CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
What is it? Why people do it?
Definitions of terms, legislation review and cases studies.
International Security and Emergency Management Institute
© Dr. Marian Kolencik, PhD., ISEM Institute,
All rights reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced and/or published in any form by
print, photo print, microfilm or any other means without previous written permission from the
ISEM Institute. All images are subject to the licenses of their respective owners.
License type: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
Recommended citation:
Kolencik, M., CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives, ISEM Institute, Slovakia, June
2021, Version 4, DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.11835.34083
On behalf of the author, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of
June 2021, Zilina, Slovakia
Topics related to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive materials are
increasingly being discussed in today´s society. Their connection with crime leads us to
another dimension, which necessarily requires deeper investigation. This significantly affects
several types of crime, including environmental crime, because they are closely related to
each other.
From practice, we feel that there is no comprehensive (and) global view of law enforcement
activities in the existing complex CBRN-E crime. We also perceive the shortcomings in the
standard operational procedures of security forces for CBRN-E incidents, which must be
regularly updated in connection with emerging technologies. These shortcomings often stem
from the different terminology from which many activities are derived. This applies in
particular to CBRN police units, teams such as SWAT, EOD, K9, special operation teams
(undercover), security and protection forces, CSI-forensics, public order police,
environmental police, and anti-narcotics force, etc.
Literature writes mostly about CBRN-E terrorism, and only a minimal amount of information
on wide range of CBRN-E crimes is mentioned. Therefore, linking this topic only to terrorism
is not relevant today. It is necessary to perceive this phenomenon in a broader context.
The aim of this article is to present the results of our comparative study related to the
definitions of CBRN-E and HazMat materials, threats, and incidents. In the article, we also
propose our own definition and categorization of CBRN-E crime, including related concepts
based on our examination of real cases around the world, a study of the literature, legislation
and history.
Another aim of this paper is to create a basis for in-depth qualitative and quantitative research
by the ISEM Institute related to the prevalence of CBRN-E crime in selected countries, as
well as a framework for a deep case comparative study. In the final part of the article, we will
focus on the motivation, motive and intents in committing CBRN-E crime using specific
analysed cases, which may be used in the future in the investigation of similar cases and case
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
Abbreviations ............................................................................................................................ 2
List of figures ............................................................................................................................ 4
List of tables .............................................................................................................................. 5
Introduction .............................................................................................................................. 6
1. CBRN-E versus hazardous materials and types of incidents definitions ................ 11
1.1.CBRN-E and hazardous materials and incidents ................................................................... 17
1.2 Division of CBRN-E / HazMat incidents ................................................................................. 30
1.3 CBRN-E crimes ......................................................................................................................... 38
2. Motivation, Motives, intent and the offender´s goal in CBRN-E crime..................... 62
Conclusions ............................................................................................................................. 86
Acknowledgment .................................................................................................................... 87
References ............................................................................................................................... 88
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
ABAG - Association of Bay Area Governments
AGV Augmented guided vehicles
AUV Automatic guided vehicles
BDD Biological dispersion device
BWC ISU Biological Weapon Convention Implementation Support Unit
CBRN CoE CBRN Centre of Excellence of the EU
CBRN-E Chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive
CDD Chemical dispersion device
CITES - Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and
CRISPR - clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats
CSI Crime scene investigation
CT Counter-terrorism
CWA Chemical warfare agent
C2NRBC - Special Gendarmerie units - National CBRN cell
DG HOME Directorate General of Migration and Home Affairs (European Commission)
EOD Explosive ordnance disposal
EU European Union
HazMat Hazardous material
HCSS - Hague Centre for Strategic Studies
IAEA International Atomic Energy Agency
IATA - International Air Transport Association
IED Improvised explosive device
INES - Institut National de l'Énergie Solaire
IRCGN - Criminal Research Institute of the Gendarmerie
IRSN - The Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety
ISEMI (ISEM Institute) International Security and Emergency Management Institute
ISIS/ISIL Islamic state of Iraq and Syria/Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant
IUU - Illegal, unregulated and unreported
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
K9 Canine unit
LD50 Lethal dose, LD50 is the amount of a substance, that kill 50% of a tested sample; it can
serve to measure the short-term poisoning potential - acute toxicity
NED Nuclear explosive device
NID Nuclear improvised device
NRC Nuclear regulatory commission
OCLAESP - Central Office for the Fight Against Environmental and Public Health Attacks
ODS Ozone depleting substances
OPCW Organisation for the prohibition of chemical weapons
PIF Crime - (Protection of Financial Interest) financial crime
POICN - Profiles of Incidents involving CBRN and Non-state Actors Database
PPE Personal Protective Equipment
RDD Radiological dispersion device
RED Radiological exposure device
RFMO - Regional fisheries management organisations
SARS - Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome
SUJCHBO - National Institute for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Protection Czech
SWAT Special weapons and tactics
TCDD - Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin
TERR European Parliament Special Committee on Terrorism
UAV Unmanned aerial vehicles
UGV Unmanned ground vehicles
UK United Kingdom
USA United states of America
UUV Unmanned underwater vehicles
UWV Unmanned water vehicles
WHO World health organisation
WMD Weapons of mass destruction
3D three-dimensional
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
List of figures
Figure 1: CBRN Terrorism incident types in POICN database
Figure 2: CBRN Terrorism incident types in Global terrorism database
Figure 3: Michal Sváček / MAFRA / Profimedia
Figure 4: ISEM Institute Figures 10, 11, and 12: Czech police
Figure 5: ISEM Institute
Figure 6: ISEM Institute
Figure 7: Indonesian CSI Police
Figure 8: Slovak police
Figure 9: Slovak police
Figures 10, 11, and 12: Czech police
Figures 13, 14 and 15: Slovak police
Figure 16: ISEM Institute
Figures 17 and 18: Ministry of Interior Georgian Police
Figure 19: Ministry of Interior Georgian Police
Figures 20 and 21: Ministry of Interior Georgian Police
Figures 22 and 23: Gendarmerie Nationale, France
Figure 24: Czech police
Figure 25: Czech police
Figure 26: Czech police
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
List of tables
Table 1 Chemical agents and explosives
Table 2 Biological agents
Table 3 - Radiological Agents
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
CBRN-E crime is often described as a threat with a potential long-term destructive impact. It
deals mainly with the possible misuse of CBRN-E materials for terrorist purposes, whether in
combination with or without explosives. Connections are made to both, state and non-state
actors. Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) are in this context also frequently mentioned
especially in defence policy and NATO documents.
On the other hand, many experts in the field of CBRN threat analysis conclude, that the
frequent occurrence of CBRN terrorist attacks is unlikely (1). This is also confirmed by global
statistics for other several years.
In recent years, terrorist groups have used modus operandi which did not require extensive
training. It was mainly the use of cold steel weapons, firearms and vehicles. Marco Macori (2)
states that conventional, more frequent terrorist attacks, such as in Paris or Mumbai, prove
that CBRN materials are not necessary to cause mass casualties. To this we can add many
other conventional attacks from previous years (2015 - 2021) on the African continent, in the
USA, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, but also in the EU - e.g. Nice, Rouen, Magnanville,
Marseille, a train from Amsterdam to Paris, Brussels, Liége, Berlin, Turku, Barcelona,
London, Stockholm, Amsterdam, and Vienna.
It is certain that for highly successful CBRN-E attacks, a highly specialized knowledge, the
availability of materials, an ability to procure, process and adapt them for use, arrangement
for transporting them to the place of attack, (and considering) the capacities for their
application and knowledge of protection against their negative effects and destructive effects,
are necessary.
However, in the area of security, we can never underestimate criminal and terrorist groups.
And with the society's gradual development, new opportunities are emerging for some types
of CBRN-E attacks without sophisticated preparation. As we have read in the in-depth HCSS
study (3), the threat of these material or substance abuses is and will still be present, and
relates to several aspects of society's development. Although the HCSS study is older, trends
are clearly visible today. Chemistry and biology convergence in connection to technology has
been and will continue for several years. We are seeing more and more great progress in the
development of nanotechnologies, with the number of experiments in the engineering of
chemical and biological materials on the rise, and the possibilities of easier access to CBRN-E
materials are also growing.
According to analyses by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine,
similarly to the Knutzen arguments (4), it appears that we are facing new threats related to
synthetic biology. The worldwide (global) pandemic of COVID-19 showed us many
weaknesses in the response to this crisis and at the same time in the possibilities of rapid
spreading of the virus. In addition, we see how quickly science has been able to respond to
COVID-19, opening new doors in medication and vaccine development. On the other hand, it
carries risks related to previous and current discoveries in the modification and creation of
biological organisms, such as CRISPR-Cas9 technology and the interests of terrorist groups.
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
In one of our studies carried out for the European Commission, we included a potential attack
of the spread of the SARS CoV virus among the CBRN terrorist threat scenarios as early as
2017, resulting in an epidemic. We didn't even think about a pandemic at the time, and SARS
CoV2 probably didn't exist or had not yet been discovered officially. This current experience
can ideally tell us what new challenges lie ahead.
As regards the possible spread of CBRN substances during an attack, technological advances
in the construction of remote-controlled devices (drones, drone swarms, ground, underwater,
water vehicles) and artificial intelligence facilitate the work of criminal groups and
automatically make it difficult for security forces. The various types of autonomous vehicles
and drones, which are multifunctional, increasingly lighter and more sophisticated, raise a
number of questions about how to deal with threats (5). Existing counter-measures in the form
of jammers, spoofing systems etc., must be constantly improved in order to catch up with
their development.
The advertising of terrorist group activities and the associated individual radicalization,
recruitment, preparation for attacks using new technologies as well as their coordination by
organized crime, can also be simplified through anonymous communication via the darkweb,
social networks, various game consoles and other electronic platforms. Detailed information
on the methods and procedures for processing CBRN-E materials for use in attacks is
increasingly present on the Internet. The development of the deepnet and darknet, as well as
the use of cryptocurrencies, also allows experts in the fields of chemistry, biology and nuclear
energy with malicious intentions to make their knowledge available to organized crime
groups without exposing their activities. It is also necessary to emphasize the radical progress
in the development of malware in recent times, which raises concerns about new types of
sophisticated cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure and industry dealing with CBRN-E
material. And we must not forget the huge progress in 3D technologies, which, in addition to
the possible rapid production of plastic firearms, also enable the extrusion of microreactors
capable of synthesizing chemical substances. The interest of terrorist groups in 3D technology
has already been clearly demonstrated by ISIL/ISIS. A number of bombs used in Syria
showed signs of using some parts printed by 3D technology (6).
An equally important technology of communication of criminal groups is steganography, a
very old effective tool for covert messaging used by several terrorist groups in the past and
nowadays. This involves inserting secret text into ordinary documents or images so that a
third party cannot suspect it after viewing it. One example is planning an attack on a salad bar
with a biological agent, where a photograph of a specific attack site in a restaurant would be
masked by another common image, making the message of the attack site clearly conveyed.
The difference between steganography and cryptography is that steganography only hides the
message, while cryptography encodes it.
In today's era of new technologies, steganography has taken a new direction and criminal
groups use many applications such as Xiano, Image steganography, Steghide, Stegais,
Camouflage, Crypture, rSteg, OpenStego, SteganPEG, Hide'N'Send, SteganographX Plus,
SSuite Picsel, Our secret and Concealment. On the other hand, there are several tools for
detecting anomalies and hidden communication, such as StegExpose and StegAlyze (7).
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
Although many plans and attempts to complete CBRN attacks have failed in recent years, the
preparation itself and the effort to carry them out also indicate an increasing risk of their
frequency in the future. As stated in the Member States' preparedness for CBRN threats study
carried out by the European Parliament for the TERR Committee in 2018, “Increasing
indications, reports and studies provide good reason to believe that threats from the
deliberate use of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) materials remain
high and are evolving (8). "
It is also important to look at CBRN-E attacks from a socio-psychological and health, but also
economic point of view. It can be assumed that a mass psychological effect could be one of
the main goals of a terrorist attack. The physical and health effects of such attacks sometimes
appear either immediately, within hours, days, or even weeks. However, even if the
consequences of such an attack would not have the character of mass destruction, the very
fact of its occurrence could cause a huge psychological effect with subsequently cascading
consequences of panic, associated injuries and long-term fear, including economic
consequences and disintegration. Serious psychological effects can also occur in the case of a
published threat or attempted CBRN-E attack.
If we look at the mapped statistics of CBRN terrorist-related incidents in the POICN database,
517 were recorded from 1990 to 2017 (9). It is important to mention that this is not a
comprehensive list of all incidents, as there is no single global record system supported by all
countries. In addition, the exclusion criteria in the analysis of data from the POICN database
were incidents in the form of hoaxes, state actors’ attacks, and crimes without an identified
ideology for financial gain, revenge, or under the influence of delusionary mental illness.
The following graph indicates what types of CBRN terrorist incidents were recorded in the
POICN database. We generated the graph from the table on page 10 in STUDIES IN
Figure 1 CBRN Terrorism incident types in POICN database
Another global analysis (Global terrorism database) (10) states about 451 CBRN terrorist
incidents from 1970 to 2019. These were either implemented attacks or attacks in an attempted
stage, 401 of which were chemical attacks resulting in 62 deaths. In 37 cases it was biological
4% 11%
% of each incident type Proto-Plot
Attempted acquisition of agent
Possesion of non-weaponised agent
Possesion of weaponised agent
Threat of possesion of agent
Attempted use of an agent
Use of an agent
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
terrorism with 9 deaths, and finally in 13 terrorist incidents using radioactive substances, where
no one was killed.
Figure 2 CBRN Terrorism incident types in Global terrorism database
CBRN-E is not just about terrorism
In the next part of the article´s introduction, we would like to emphasize one fact that is little
taken into account and is often overlooked by the competent authorities. CBRN-E crime is not
just a link to terrorism. In recent years, we have had the opportunity to see in practice that this
is a much broader dimension than just terrorism. We dare to assume that it is a far greater
dimension than generally assumed. However, this assumption must definitively confirm the
research we have begun to carry out and will build on in this article.
We all know that chemical, biological, radioactive, nuclear and explosive materials can be
misused or used for a wide range of malicious and dangerous activities. Their negative impact
can be seen in the form of threats to public security, damage to the health of the population, the
environment (as such), fauna and flora, property, and it also impacts agricultural activity and
the economy.
In this context, it is necessary to mention other much more common cases of CBRN-E crimes,
even though the definition of CBRN-E crime is not yet sufficiently and uniformly established
in criminal law worldwide. These include an increasing trend of assaults using acid, the illegal
trafficking, production and possession of CBRN-E materials, the illegal transport and dumping
of hazardous waste, and the illegal sale of CBRN-E material through the darknet, etc. (11).
We can clearly observe from practice and existing criminal laws that there is a wide range of
CBRN-E crimes classified under different crime categories (crimes against human life and
health, crimes against property, offences representing public danger, violent crime, damage and
threat to the environment, crimes against the nation, peace and the state, etc.). Their impact on
the population is often invisible, as it primarily affects the environment, and human health
becomes a secondary consequence. Therefore, it is important to link CBRN-E crime partially
8% 3%
% of each incident type
Chemical incident
Biological incident
Radiological incident
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
to environmental crime, depending on the type. We can also make this connection on the basis
of the existing Directive 2008/99 / EC of the European Parliament and of the Council (12).
To define CBRN-E crime in detail, it is important to explain several related concepts. Although
many dictionaries related to CBRN-E threats are publicly available, they only marginally or not
at all deal with CBRN-E crime and we have not found any specific definition. The aim of this
pre-print paper is to compare the different perceptions of CBRN-E agents and hazardous
materials, as well as CBRN-E and HAZMAT incidents in conjunction with intentional and
unintentional conduct. This study was based on the perspective of the existing literature,
legislation and standard operational procedures used in interventions by various security and
rescue services. The paper also includes our recommendations for defining and categorising
CBRN-E crime, which are based on existing criminal and other related laws of several
countries, and practical experience during our professional assignments in a number countries.
It will also serve as a basis for in-depth qualitative and quantitative research related to the
prevalence of CBRN-E crime in selected countries, as well as provide a framework for a
comparative study of selected CBRN-E cases. The paper also addresses the perception of the
(motivations and) motives of perpetrators in committing CBRN-E crime on the basis of case
studies from Slovakia, Czech Republic, France, Georgia and UK.
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
1. CBRN-E versus hazardous materials and types of incidents definitions
What does CBRN stand for? Normally, there is a simple answer related to hazardous
substances. Ultimately, however, this abbreviation encompasses a much broader context than
just chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear materials with certain chemical, biological,
and physical properties. If these materials are used in activities violating the law, we can talk
about their impact on many aspects of people's lives and society.
In this context, we will try to characterize the abbreviation CBRN from several perspectives.
Therefore, we can also talk about CBRN as:
By this we want to indicate that behind the four letters there is not only chemistry, biology,
physics and nuclear science. As we stated in the introduction of the article, CBRN threats must
also be assessed from a socio-psychological, sociological, medical, communicative and
economic point of view.
In any CBRN threat, it is necessary to assume the emergence of crowd psychosis and the
uncontrollable behavior of the population, which can lead to secondary injuries the crowd
began running noisily, for instance.
An example is the footage of EURONEWS and Dailymotion (13) from a false alarm broadcast
in Paris on 15 November 2015, two days after the coordinated ISIL attacks on the Stade de
France in Saint-Denis and the Bataclan theatre. According to SLATE.FR, memorial
manifestations were held in several places for the victims of the attacks from previous days.
They took place at the Place de la République, Beaubourg, and Étienne Marcel. However, there
were screams out of nowhere and panic began to spread at the Place de la République, causing
the mindless running of hundreds of people, resulting in many injuries. The panic appears to
have been caused by firecracker explosions (14). It was enough to combine the lingering fear of
recent attacks with an explosion-like sound, and one person's psychological processes provoked
a naturally confusing reaction. Her panicked cry affected others under the influence of the
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
circumstances, and so there was a wave of reactions from bystanders. This is how the panic
This can be compared to a definition based on the Entrapment theory of flight, where the typical
response to danger is aggression or mass flight in search of a safe place (15).
However, in the EURONEWS video (13), we could also see elements of mutual help when men
in a restaurant were navigating running people where to hide
A Mawson study (15) points out that in bombings, people tend to be helpful to others and seek
refuge with loved ones. However, Mawson also mentions attacks using CBRN materials, where
it is difficult to predict how masses of people will behave in an unprecedented attack. As an
example, he cites the behavior of the population after the (nuclear) bombing attacks during
World War II in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Some reports contained information that people fled
in droves hysterically and were confused after the initial peaceful evacuation (Complicated,
Blood-curdling, Redoubtable Nuisance from our concept). Another example of widespread
panic was the anthrax attacks in letters sent by post in the United States in 2001, despite the
fact that there were minimal casualties (16).
We can also assume that in the event of a terrorist attack with radioactive substances, mass
panic psychosomatic symptoms will develop in the affected population caused by the
exaggerated fear of the effects of radiation. This may frustrate or complicate rescue operations
(17). The indirect consequences of a terrorist attack in the form of anxiety, fear for life and
health, or unexpected dangerous behavior can also complicate the successful management of a
crisis situation. The combination of ignorance and misunderstanding of the situation can even
result in extreme forms of behavior such as total passivity, disobeying or disregarding the
instructions of the security forces, or deliberately opposing the authorities' recommendations
The socio-psychological effects of a potential terrorist attack with CBRN materials can be long-
term. As Khripunov further points out in connection with a potential terrorist attack using a
radiological device, (16) the effects of radiation can cause depression, guilt and loss of control
of their lives in victims and their descendants.
In the case of CBRN-E incidents, it is also necessary to take into account the psychological
consequences that may occur in first responders, especially if they intervened in places with a
large number of victims. Khripunov speaks of "compassion fatigue" and "vicarious
traumatization" (16). However, it is also important to perceive secondary traumatisation as
secondary traumatic stress, which can significantly affect the lives of first responders. This
phenomenon is based on situations in which rescue services help victims of devastating
traumatic events. At the same time, trauma is transmitted from the victims to the rescuers who
did not have to experience the traumatizing situation themselves. Symptoms may occur in the
long term with repeated or extreme survival of similar situations without direct sensory
perception (19). Therefore, when perceiving CBRN-E incidents, we must always think about
adequate training of intervening teams and monitor their mental health regularly.
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
The psychological effects of CBRN-E attacks are closely linked to communication between the
intervening components and also to the public in order to avoid panic and cascading
consequences. These are specific situations that generate uncontrollable emotions, to which it
is necessary to react intelligently. This type of crisis brings with it unexpected behavior of the
population, which tests the trust and credibility of public institutions. Communication in such
cases requires special attention to the ethical and social elements in public speeches, as the clear
time and place boundaries of a CBRN-E event are not easy to predict from the outset. It is also
important to be aware of the public's ignorance of this type of incident background (20).
Conventional communication standards cannot work effectively in such situations. This can be
explained by two theories. The theory of Negative dominance speaks of understanding positive
and negative information in crisis situations, creating an asymmetric relationship between them.
Greater weight is placed on negative information. People try harder to cope with losses and
negative consequences compared to gains and positives. The second model is called Mental
noise. Its aim is to assess how people react to the information obtained in times of crisis while
under stress. It explains that the ability to communicate effectively is reduced due to various
emotional excitations. Anxiety then creates the so-called "Mental noise", which curtails the
ability to react rationally. Lynn Davis, Tom LaTourrette, David E. Mosher, Lois M. Davis, and
David R. Howell therefore state that communication containing negatives is more (widely)
perceived and kept in memory for a longer time period (21). For this reason, it is essential to
create a communication strategy for a CBRN-E incident so that the population's attention is
captured as soon as possible by a correct and clear message, recorded in the long term, but at
the same time providing clear solutions to the crisis.
At the same time, we must take into account that media communication is a tool for terrorist
organisations. The communication strategy by the competent authorities must therefore be
balanced, taking into account the need for communication to the public and considering the
tactical components targeted at the terrorist group. The role of the media in this context is
therefore crucial, with commercial benefits set aside. At a minimum, they should be balanced
with social benefits.
During the preparation of communication channels in the event of a terrorist attack with CBRN-
E materials, it is strategic to think in advance of multichannel communication, which will
effectively bring together the authorities responsible for crisis management, news media, civil
society and citizens (22).
Failure to do so may result in serious errors. Confusion will be created, which will lead to even
more misconduct:
Negative act
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
During many field security exercises of various countries in the field, we were able to observe
the frequent occurrence of errors during operational procedures, unless the communication was
clear, unambiguous and the flow of information went in the right direction. Therefore, during a
CBRN criminal incident, we should use:
Failure to do so may result in serious health consequences:
CBRN threats can ultimately have a devastating impact on the economy and society, which is
illustrated by our following abbreviation:
Nasty mess
Unfortunately, there are only a very small number of publicly available studies focused on the
economic impacts of a possible CBRN-E attack, both crime and accident. From what we have
found in the literature, most information is available in connection with the incidents in Bhopal,
Chernobyl and Goiania, or in connection with epidemics such as SARS (23). When the current
COVID-19 pandemic culminates, we can also expect a global study of its economic impact on
individual countries and the world economy. This could make a significant contribution to
planning expenditure on measures related to biological threats.
As a concrete example of the significant economic consequences, we can mention the case of
Goiania in Brazil. The negligent actions of people from a private radiotherapy institute when
moving to new premises caused an unprecedented incident. The former premises of the
institute were partially demolished, and during the removal they forgot about an old device
used for radiotherapy. An abandoned radioactive source from a cancer treatment machine was
found by two people who brought it home, where they were manipulated it. Later they
brought it to the metal scrapyard. The owner of this metal scrap company noticed that parts of
the source in the size of rice grains glowed blue in the dark. He then brought the individual
parts to several families to point out the special phenomenon of these small special “iron”
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
grains. The radioactive source cesium 137 caused internal contamination and external
irradiation of several persons. The radioactive source was in the form of cesium chloride salt.
It is a highly soluble and readily dispersible substance. As a result, four people died and
approximately 112,000 people were monitored for contamination. Of these, up to 249 were
contaminated internally or externally. Many suffered serious internal and external
contamination due to the way they handle cesium chloride salt, as they rubbed their skin,
consumed food with contaminated hands or touched buildings, furniture and kitchenware that
were also contaminated (24).
In addition to the health consequences, this case also had psycho-social and economic
consequences. Gradually, the population became very stigmatized because a large group of
people thought they were contaminated. Up to 100,000 persons underwent examination and
over 8,000 were certified as not contaminated. Hotels outside the affected region refused to
accept guests from the affected area, transport companies refused to transport them, and
medical facilities to treat them. The certificates were intended to enable them to overcome
this stigma. As a result, tourist business revenues fell by 40%, and half of the value of
government exports was lost in the first month after the incident, mainly in connection with
agricultural production. Textile and clothing production also recorded a 40% loss in value
Another example of a chemical attack, which involved significant intervention and recovery
costs, was the Scripal case in the UK in 2018. The Novichok nerve agent attack in Salisbury
required not only a huge effort of over 40 UK forces, but also considerable resources to
intervene and recovery phase. Many businesses were forced to close due to decontamination,
which required additional support from public authorities. According to the region's Police
and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson this attack in Salisbury cost the police force £
7.5m (25).
The multiple anthrax attacks in the United States in 2001 required investment in
decontamination and related services, which was approximately € 80.46m and € 1.78m for
precautionary measures related to obtaining information on perpetrators.
The 1966 case in Palomares, Spain, also had a significant impact on the local economy.
During a flight over the city, two planes collided, one of which was carrying four hydrogen
bombs. Although rapid measures prevented a thermonuclear reaction, the explosion of high-
explosive burster charges caused a dispersion of plutonium across several hectares of
agricultural land. A huge effort in soil decontamination had to be expended. The clean-up
process was estimated at € 43.78 m (26).
A case of cyanide contamination of grapes was recorded in 1989 in Chile after an anonymous
call to the US Embassy in Santiago (27). The US Food and Drug Administration approved an
embargo of grape imports from Chile. The result was several hundred million dollars in
financial losses, and many small agricultural businesses went bankrupt (28).
The economic losses and expenditures caused by a possible CBRN-E attack are summarized
in the following categories, which we have adjusted from the table created by Ramsereg, A.
Kalinowski, M. B. and Weiß, L. It can be mainly (26):
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
I. Direct expenditure on the intervention of rescue and fire brigades
- detection and identification of CBRN materials;
- provision of protective equipment and clothing;
- triage of the wounded;
- saving lives and treating the injured;
- evacuation;
- securing the site of the incident and preventing the further spread of CBRN substances into
the environment;
- immediate decontamination of victims and staff;
- transport to hospital facilities;
- temporary establishment of field hospitals.
II. Direct expenditure on the intervention of security and military forces
- crackdown on criminals and terrorists (neutralization);
- provision of protective equipment and clothing;
- detection and identification of CBRN materials and threats, including the use of the latest
technologies (UAV, UGV, etc.);
- set-up of safe perimeter - cordoning;
- set-up of command post and crisis management permanent post;
- securing the crime scene from deterioration;
- crime scene reconnaissance, investigation and sampling;
- disaster victims´ identification;
- immediate decontamination of perpetrators and security and military staff;
- decontamination of evidence;
- transport of evidence to laboratory;
- laboratory examination, etc.
III. Recovery and reconstruction phase
- cleaning and decontamination processes, including removal of soil contamination;
- population relocation and resettlement;
- gathering of infected animals;
- disposal of contaminated objects, animal and plant carcasses;
- waste management;
- health care for the injured and disabled;
- socio-health compensation for surviving victims, the disabled and their survivors;
- reconstruction of buildings and adjacent infrastructure, etc.
IV. Indirect costs of damages caused
- losses due to the closure of production and service operations;
- losses caused by long-term lack of interest in tourist operations (hotels, restaurants)
- the need to pay social allocations to people who have lost their jobs;
- costs related to the temporary operation of replacement infrastructure;
- losses caused by the declaration of state of emergency;
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
- economic impact of temporary infrastructure breakdown: transportation system, public
services (water supply, electricity, telephone network);
- macro-economic impacts: consequential costs from loss of income (multiplier effects) and
loss of investor confidence / propensity to save
As we can see, the costs and impacts on the economy can be innumerable if the CBRN-E
attack succeeds. A qualitative and quantitative study by Ramseger, A., Kalinowski, M. B. and
Weiß, L. (26) shows that investing in preventive measures against CBRN terrorism pays off.
The expected economic consequences can be much higher than the cost of countermeasures
alone. However, the authors emphasize caution when calculating the costs of prevention and
The effects of a CBRN-E incident can therefore range from minimal loss of life, physical and
mental health, environmental and economic impacts to massive deaths, serious health
consequences, crowd psychosis, overcrowded hospitals, serious environmental damage, and
economic destruction and disintegration of state structures. It all depends on the type and
amount of CBRN agent, the environment in which the incident occurs, the weather, and the
mode of operandi of the perpetrators.
1.1. CBRN-E and hazardous materials and incidents
CBRN and HazMat terminology
We would like to highlight that the existence of different definitions and interpretations of
terms can make it difficult to communicate and cooperate between countries. Therefore, it is
necessary to know several interpretations of CBRN-E terminology. Correct CBRN-E
definitions are also essential to the quality of penal legislation as they determine the scope of
the law and represent the frame for the definition of the offences.
In the previous chapter, we looked at the acronym CBRN from a slightly different
perspective. However, going back to the original well-known terminology, as stated by
Bhardwaj (29), CBRN is often associated with the term “CBRN Defense” and covers passive
protection from CBRN threats, prevention of contamination, and reducing CBRN risks.
According to the European Commission's dictionary - DG HOME (30), the acronym CBRN
refers to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials that could harm society
through accidental or deliberate release or spread. The term CBRN is a replacement for the
Cold War term of NBC (nuclear, biological and chemical), which replaced the previous term
ABC (atomic, biological and chemical) which was used in the 1950s.
In the countries of the former Soviet Union and their socialist partners, the abbreviation
“RCHBP” - Radiation, Chemical and Biological Protection - was also often used in military
sector. This term is still used in several countries.
The definition of CBRN-E is encountered as an abbreviation for chemical, biological,
radiological, nuclear and explosive materials. Interpol (31) states that CBRN-E terrorism poses
a clear global threat to public health and security, national security, and economic and
political stability.
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
The UK Operational Guidance of the Fire Central Program Office explains the presence of the
letter “'E” in CBRN-E by saying that “CBRN terrorist attacks may depend on an explosive
(E) device for dispersal” (32).
According to Eurojust, chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive substances
(CBRN-E) include substances and agents designed, synthesized, extracted, processed and,
where appropriate, manufactured, distributed and used by various actors (33).
As stated by the University of Pittsburgh (34), hazardous material (HazMat) means “any
object or substance (biological, chemical, radiological and / or physical) that can potentially
cause injury to humans, animals or animals by itself or through interaction with other factors,
and environmental damage.”
Although we can perceive the category of HazMat materials in a broader sense in terms of the
impact on health and the environment, they will always be chemical, biological, radioactive or
nuclear substances. These terms are mainly related to the field of transport. HazMat or
hazardous / dangerous material are characterised by U.S. Department of Transportation
(DOT) and IATA as „articles or substances which are capable of posing a risk to health,
safety, property, or the environment; are listed or classified in the regulations; and are
transported in commerce” (35).
IATA defines Dangerous Goods as “items that may endanger the safety of an aircraft or
persons on board the aircraft. Dangerous Goods are also known as restricted articles,
hazardous materials and dangerous cargo. Many common items found in your household can
be considered dangerous goods for the purpose of air transport” (36).
The Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Development of the French Republic states that
hazardous materials do not only concern highly toxic substances, explosives and pollutants,
but also the products we normally need in everyday life. These are fuels, gases, and fertilizers.
The substances can be flammable, toxic, explosive, corrosive or radioactive (37).
According to the definition of the European Agency for Safety and Health Work and the
classification of dangerous substances based on categories defined in the CLP Directive
(Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 (CLP Regulation), the hazardous substances “include
physical hazards (explosive, flammable, instable etc.), health hazards (all aspects of short-
and long-term harm to health) and environmental hazards (aquatic environment etc.)” (38).
Operational Guidance of UK Fire and Rescue Service describes the term of hazardous
materials as dangerous/hazardous substances or goods. They can be in the form of solids,
liquids, or gases. This term includes toxic, radioactive, flammable, explosive, corrosive,
oxidizers, asphyxiates, biohazards, pathogen or allergen substances and organisms. At the
same time, it can include materials with physical conditions or characteristics that make them
hazardous under specific conditions (39).
According to the ABAG definition, (40) hazardous materials include substances which “cause
or contribute to an increase in injury, death or serious illness or pose a serious threat to
humans or the environment because of their chemical, physical or infectious properties”.
With reference to the CBRN Mall Warning book methodology developed by Kolencik,
Truchly, Górniak, Labaska, Bijak and the team of CBRN Shopping mall project; then with
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
reference to Sabol, J., Sestak, B.; Congressional research service and U.S. NRC (41), we
propose to divide CBRN-E material into the following categories and agents of concern to be
possibly used in different CBRN-E crimes. This selection of agents comes from previous
criminal offences against health, life of people, against environment (animals, plant, land,
water, forest, …), against public security and property, state system, nation, etc. and the
assessment of their future possible use based on characteristics and hazard potential. The
specific connection of the agents listed below to different crime scenarios is not provided in
this public article, but is in disposal upon request in the classified version for law enforcement
Chemical/Explosive agents
Some chemicals may be found in more than one hazard group (hazard to health and property).
They are listed in the table by primary effect category. It is important to highlight that some
listed agents are very easily procured and some of them done so only under highly
professional laboratory conditions. Many agents of concern can be synthetised only in a
laboratory, some can be found in the mining and chemical industries as precursors, and some
can be found in agricultural applications or home cleaning products, etc. This is not an
exhaustive list of chemical agents of concern, but just some examples of the most probable
agents used in CBRN-E crime.
Group of
chemical hazards
Subgroup of
chemical hazard
The most probable Chemical Agents used in CBRN-E
1.Toxic (toxic
chemicals, war
1.1 Acute toxicity
- Organophosphate pesticides : (Chlormephos,
Chlorthiophos, Cyanophos, Demeton, Chlordane, etc.),
- Carbamate pesticides (Aldicarb, Oxamyl, Thiofanox)
- Other pesticides : Fenamiphos, Mevinphos, Azinphos-
methyl, Difenacoum, Fluoroacetamide, Sodium
fluoroacetate, Strychnine
- Substances used in professional or customer products e.g.:
potassium cyanide 1,2,3,7,8, Pentachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin
- Substances used in industrial processes:
- Phosgene, Hydrogen cyanide, Cyanogen chloride, Arsenic
acid, Acrylonitrile, 1,1,3 Trichloroacetone, Acryolyl
chloride, Glutaral - Hexamethylene diisocyanate, Methyl
isocyanate, Nitrous oxide, Boron trichloride Dichlorosilane
- Chlorine dioxide
- Phosphine, Osmium tetroxide trioxide, Hydrogen
- Arsenic (III) oxide
- Side products of industrial processes, combustion etc.:
Tetrachlorodibenzo dioxin (TCDD), Dimethyl mercury
1.2 Prolonged effect
and Target organ
- Acrylonitrile
- Arsine
- Benzene
- Carbon disulphide
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
- Arsenic acid
- Chlorpyrifos
- Carbon tetrachloride
- Nitrobenzene
- Bromelain juice
- Methyl mercury
- Chlordane
1.3 CWA (Nerve,
Blister, Choking -
pulmonary agents,
Blood agents)
alteration of
- Sarin-(GB)
- Soman-(GD)
- Tabun-(GA)
- VX, Cyclosarin-(GF)
- Hydrogen cyanide-(AC)
- Phosgene-(CG)
- Diphosgene-(DP)
- 2,2’-Dichlorodiethylsulphide (Sulphur mustard, mustard
gas, blister agent-HD)
- Nitrogen mustard - HN-1,2,3;
- Sesquimustard
- Phenyldichloroarsine (PD)
- Methyldichloroarsine (MD)
- Phosgene oxime (CX)
- Lewisite (blister agent)
- Novichok A agent
- Arsine
- Cyanogen chloride (CK)
- Potassium cyanide (KCN)
- Sodium cyanide (NaCN)
- Quinuclidinyl benzilate (BZ)
2. Corrosive
2.1 Eye damage
- Acryolyl chloride
- Acrylonitrile- Aluminium chloride
- Aluminium phosphide
- Arsine
- Bromelain, juice
- Chlorine dioxide
- Dichlorosilane
- Cellulase
- Glutaral
- Hexamethylene diisocyanate
- Maleic anhydride
- Methyl isocyanate
- Succinic anhydride
- Aniline
- Benzenyl chloride
- Hydrogen sulphide (irritant)
- Acids
- Alkali, alkali aqueous solutions
- Riot control agents CA, CR
2.2. Skin Corrosion
- Acids (e.g. Sulphuric acid)
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
- Acryolyl chloride
- Boron trichloride
- 2-phenylethylisocyanate
- Bromelain, juice
- Dichlorosilane
- Hydrogen sulphide, (irritant)
- Succinic anhydride
- Alkali, alkali aqueous solutions)
2.3 Objects and
goods corrosion
- Acids
- Glutaral
3. Sensitizing respiratory (breathing
difficulties, allergy) or skin (allergy)
- 1,5-naphthylene diisocyanate
- 2-phenylethylisocyanate
- Acrylonitrile
- Bromelain, juice
- Cellulase
- Ficin
- Glutaral
- Hexamethylene diisocyanate
- Maleic anhydride
- Methyl isocyanate
- Osmium tetroxide
- Succinic anhydride
- Chlorine
- Ammonia
- Nitric acid
- Phosphine
- Red phosporus
- White phosporus
- Perflurorisobutylene (PFIB)
- Titanium tetrachloride
- Zinc oxide
- Riot control agents: Chlorobenzylidenemalonitrile (CS),
Dibenz (b,f) (1,4) oxazepine (CR), Chloroacetophenone
(CA), Chloropicrin (PS), Lysergide)
- some solvents
4. Incapacitating (vomiting agents)
- Adamsite (DM)
- Diphenylchloroarsine (DA)
- Diphenylcyanoarsine (DC)
5. Oxidative (chemical burns)
- Chlorine
- Chlorine dioxide
- Magnesium perchlorate - saturated aqueous solution
- Perchloric acid
- Ammonium perchlorate
- Bromine
- Chromic acid
- Dibenzoyl peroxide
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Nitrous oxide
- Sodium perchlorate
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
- Oxidizing acids eg. Nitric acid Sulphuric acid, 80% Acetic
acid, Acetic anhydride - Sodium hypochlorite
6. Flammable (heat burns)
- Acrylonitrile
- Ammonia
- Arsine
- Petrol
- Ethanol
- Hydrogen Sulphide
- Methylated spirit
- paint thinners
- Kerosene
- Acetone
- Diesel
- Phosphine
7. Water reacting (emitting flammable
- Aluminium phosphide
- Dichlorosilane
8. Water reacting (emitting toxic
- Aluminium arsenide
- Aluminium chloride
- Aluminium phosphide
- DA, DC
9. Explosive (fragmentation wounds)
- Pentrite
- Aziroazide azide
10. Gas under pressure (explodes when
- Ammonia anhydr.
- Arsine
- Boron trichloride
- Chlorine
- Chlorine dioxide
- Dichlorosilane
- Phosgene
- Propane
- Nitrous oxide
- Carbon dioxide
- Phosphine
- Sulphur dioxide
11. Psychotomimetic agents (induce a
psychosis, often including hallucinations
and delusions) (42)
- Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
- BZ (CWA)
- other benzilic acid esters
- Agent 15
- Cannabinoids
- Fentanil
- Phenothiazines (several)
12. Pharmaceutical (illicit and
commercial drugs at supra-therapeutic
or toxic doses)
- Pancuronium
- Carfentanil
13. Property and security threatening
substances -
- Graphite (electro-chemical reaction) However, it may
contain trace amounts of silica causing health hazard.
Table 1 Chemical agents and explosives
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
Biological agents
Biological crimes can be carried out using toxins, bacteria, viruses, parasites and/or fungi to
cause harm to people, the environment, and animals and plants, from a range of very small up
to giant proportions depending upon which agents mentioned below would be used. Some of
them have LD50 potential and some of them not, but they can still create panic. Some of them
can cause harm only in some regions. Certain diseases caused by these agents are not human-
to-human transmissible; others can be transmitted from human-to-human, others by different
hosts or vectors. Some of them can be spread only to plants and animals, and some to humans
and animals like overlapping diseases. The spread of biological agents can be “open”, but also
covert or masked as natural outbreaks. Furthermore, the containment of a human-to-human
transmissible disease might be difficult to control in the first phase due to an early rapid
spread. It is important to highlight that some listed agents are very easily procured and some
of them only under highly professional laboratory conditions. This is not an exhaustive list of
biological agents, but just some examples of the most probable agents used in CBRN-E crime.
Group of biological
The most probable Biological Agents used in CBRN-E crime
1. Toxins (bacterial,
plant, mycotoxins,
- Ricin
- Abrin
- Aconitine
- Clostridium botulinum neurotoxin
- Clostridium perfrigens epsilson toxin
- Conotoxins
- Shigatoxins
- Saxitoxins
- Tetrodotoxins
- Aflatoxin
- Ochratoxin A
- T2 toxin
- Staphylococcal enterotoxin B (SEB)
- Epsilon toxin of Clostridium perfringens
- Food poisoning toxins (From Salmonella species, Escherichia coli O157:H7,
- Convallatoxin
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
2. Viruses
-Tick-borne virus (Nairovirus) causing Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic fever
(CCHFV) and Tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV)
- Zoonotic flu viruses like H1N1 or H5N1 etc.
- Dengue virus causing Dengue Fever
- Cuevavirus, Marburgvirus, and Ebolavirus causing Ebola
- RVF virus (RVFV) causing Rift Valley Fever
- Yellow Fever virus causing Yellow Fever
- Haemorrhagic Fever viruses with Renal Syndrome including Hanta virus,
Apodemus agrarius virus causing Korean Haemorrhagic Fever)
- Pathogenic hantaviruses (e.g. Hantaan HNTV, Seoul SEOV, Sin Nombre SNV,
Andes ANDV, Dobrave-Belgrad DOBV
- Monkey pox virus causing monkeypox
- HIV/HCV viruses
- Noroviruses
- Vaccinia (orthropoxvirus)
- Coronaviruses - SARS, MERS
- Arenaviruses (Lassa, Machupo)
- Mushroom virus X
- Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis virus causing Venezuelan equine
- Rift Valley fever virus causing FVF
3. Bacteria
- “Super bugs” – multidrug resistance pathogens
- Bacillus anthracis Anthrax
- Bacillus cereus biowar anthracis
- Brucella genus bacteria-Brucellosis
- Toxigenic bacterium Vibrio cholerae - Cholera
- Yersinia Pestis Plague
- Bacterium Francisella tularensis - Tularemia
- Salmonella typhi - Typhoid Fever
- Bacterium Listeria monocytogenes -Listeriosis
- Rickettsia prowazekii - Typhus
- STEC (Bacterium) Shiga toxigenic Escherichia coli - gastrointestinal illnesses,
haemorrhagic colitis (HC) and haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS)
- Legionella (bacterium Legionella pneumophila) legionellosis
- Burkholderia mallei - Glanders
- Burkholderia pseudomallei - Melioidosis
- Chlamydia psittaci - Psittacosis
- Q fever - Coxiella burnetii
- Rickettsia prowazekii - Typhus fever
- Coxiella burnetii (Q fever)
4. Parasites
- Entamoeba histolytica
- Toxoplasma gondii
- Giardia lamblia (giardiasis)
- Tapeworm
- River blindness
- Filariasis
- African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness)
- Plasmodium parasite Malaria
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
5. Fungi
- Candida albicans - Bloodstream infections
- Fungus - Meningitis
6. Animal diseases
- African horse sickness
- African swine fever
- Akabane Avian influenza (highly pathogenic)
- Bluetongue (exotic)
- Brucellosis of cattle (Brucella abortus)
- Bovine spongiform encephalopathy
- Brucellosis of sheep (Brucella melitensis)
- Camel pox
- Brucellosis of swine (Brucella suis)
- Classical swine fever
- Contagious caprine pleuropneumonia
- Contagious bovine pleuropneumonia
- Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD)
- Goat pox
- Heartwater (Cowdria ruminantium)
- Japanese encephalitis
- Lumpy skin disease
- Malignant catarrhal fever
- Menangle virus
- Newcastle disease (exotic)
- Peste des petits ruminants
- Rinderpest
- Sheep pox
- Swine vesicular disease
- Vesicular stomatitis
7. Plant pathogens and
- Phytophthora ramorum
- Phytophthora kernoviae
- Liberobacter africanus, L. asiaticus / Citrus greening caused
- Peronosclerospora philippinensis / Philippine downy mildew (of corn)
- Ralstonia solanacearum, race 3, biovar 2/ Bacterial wilt, brown rot (of potato)
- Sclerophthora rayssiae var. Zeae / Brown stripe downy mildew (of corn)
- Synchytrium endobioticum / Potato wart or potato canker
- Xanthomonas oryzae pv. Oryzicola / Bacterial leaf streak (of rice)
- Xylella fastidiosa / Citrus variegated chlorosis
Table 2 Biological agents
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
Radiological agents
The penetration abilities of alpha particles are very small (several centimeters in air,
something like 40-90 microns in tissue). This means that alpha particles striking the surface of
the body do not present any harm to an exposed person (as external sources) unless there are
open skin wounds. However, they are extremely harmful when an alpha emitter enters the
body and exposed to its tissues internally.
Beta particles have a greater ability to penetrate materials, and comparing them to Alpha
particles, they are much lighter. They can travel through many centimetres or even metres in
the air, and can penetrate skin.
The most dangerous category in terms of penetration abilities through tissue is gamma
radiation and also neutrons, therefore the shielding against these sources, minimum time
spent close them and keeping distance are the most important aspects in ensuring adequate
protection of persons.
Long-term contamination of surfaces, soil, air, etc. can also represent serious security and
safety issues.
This is not an exhaustive list of radiological agents of concern, but just some examples of the
most probable agents used in CBRN-E crime. Some of them (specified in a classified version
of the article) emit lower energy than others, and some of them also have a shorter half-time
of decay. They also have different chemical and physical properties, but they may still be
dangerous to a certain extent depending on their activity (number of radioactive decay per
second), the modus operandi and the intent of the offenders in a CBRN-E crime. Many
radionuclides also emit more than one type of particles, but we put them in a category
according to primary energy particles emission. There may be a combination of emitted β, γ,
α, and n particles per a radioactive decay.
Group of radiological
The most probable radiological Agents (sealed or unsealed) used in CBRN-
E crime for internal or external contamination and/or irradiation
1. Alfa sources (natural
and artificially
- Americium (Am-241); in addition to alpha this radionuclide emits also some
lower energy gammas
- Plutonium (Pu-238); alphas are accompanied by a very low energy of
- Plutonium (Pu-239); the primary fissile isotope used for the production of
nuclear weapons
- Polonium (Po-210); emits practically only alpha emitter
- Radium (Ra-226); in addition, alpha emits also gammas
- Radon (Rn-222); gas emitting only alphas
- Uranium (U-235); in addition to alpha this radionuclide emits also some
lower energy gammas
2. Beta / Gamma
- Cobalt (Co-60); beta-gamma emitter, used mainly as a gamma source with
very penetrating radiation
- Cesium (Cs-137); beta gamma emitter, used mainly as a gamma source
- Iodine (I-125); low energy beta and gamma emitter
- Iodine (I-131); high energy beta and gamma emitter
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
Table 3 - Radiological Agents
Nuclear agents
Nuclear material can be defined as material that creates fission upon neutron irradiation. This
includes material used in the nuclear weapons industry, or fuel in reactors of nuclear power
plants. High activity radionuclides are also in spent nuclear fuel and disposal premises. Strong
radioactive emitters can serve as a material for the so-called “dirty bomb” that can be
transported to a selected target by various means. As Hall (43) further states, “a nuclear bomb
can be made of plutonium-239 or enriched uranium (U-235)”.
The IAEA defines nuclear material as any source material or special fissionable material.
Source material is defined as “uranium containing the mixture of isotopes occurring in
nature; uranium depleted in the isotope 235; thorium; any of the foregoing in the form of
metal, alloy, chemical compound, or concentrate."
As for special fissionable material, the IAEA describe it as “plutonium-239; uranium-233;
uranium enriched in the isotopes 235 or 233; any material containing one or more of the
foregoing.” The IAEA Board of Governors may also decide on additional source or special
fissionable material depending on several circumstances in accordance with the relevant
standards of the Agency (44).
It is important to emphasize that CBRN materials used in criminal activities other than
terrorism may not all be specially modified or weaponized. These can be hazardous materials,
chemicals which, without any modification, can be deliberately spilled from the original
packaging as raw material on passing pedestrians, which can lead to the crime of public
endangerment, personal injury, homicide, assault, etc. Their acquisition can be very simple
yet difficult to observe in many cases.
- Iridium (Ir-192); emits penetrating gammas
- Iron (Fe-55); emits low energy photons and betas
- Phosporus (P-32); beta particles able to penetrate 0.8 cm into tissue
- Selenium (Se-75)); emits penetrating gammas
- Strontium (Sr-89, Sr-90); main radiation emitted high energy beta
- Strontium (Sr-90); high energy beta emitter
- Technetium (Tc-99m); emits penetrating gamma photons
- Tritium or hydrogen-3 (symbol T or 3H) - emits a low-energy beta particle.
The tritium emitted betas cannot penetrate the skin and thus they are not
harmful as an external radiation source. This radionuclide may cause only
small internal doses (much lower that the exposure due to alpha emitters), but
still can serve as a threat.
- Yytrium (Y-90); it is a pure beta emitter
3. Neutrons- associated
with nuclear fission
material (see below)
and neutron produced
by (alpha, n), (gamma,
- Californium (Cf-252); it is used exclusively as a neutron source
- AmBe; neutron source, mixture of Am-241 and Be
- PuBe; neutron source, mixture of Pu-239 and Be
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
CBRN-E versus HazMat incidents
Traditionally and historically, incidents have always been divided into HazMat and CBRN-E
in professional circles. The difference was in the scale of the incident and in the methods of
intervention, which, however, is currently not always the case after improving the
intervention system and striving for uniform procedures at international level. This depends
on national legislation, which often varies from country to country. HazMat teams were
formed mostly within fire fighters’ units or civil defence / protection agencies. CBRN-E
teams were mostly part of the military or security forces.
The difference between CBRN-E agents and hazardous materials was assessed in relation to
the type of incident, in particular, regardless of whether it was caused by intent or negligence.
Ultimately, for example, a chemical such as ammonia may be perceived as part of the CBRN
category when used to attack a specific group of people (45), or as part of hazardous materials
if a train carrying, say, ammonia is derailed, such as in Canada in 1999 (46), or the tank truck
accident in Houston in 1976 (47).
Another difference defined in some literature sources is the method of intervention in CBRN-
E and HazMat incidents. B. Trefz (48), for example, says that the priority in CBRN operations
is to identify agents and perpetrators of crime. This includes in particular the sampling of
found substances as well as the collection of intelligence. These operations seek to prevent
risks but at the same time accept them as part of their mission. Intervention in the event of a
HazMat incident is aimed primarily at mitigating releases of substances into the environment
and protecting the health of the population.
If we focus on hazardous material incident assessment (HAZMAT), as disclosed in U.S. Pat.
National Library of Medicine (49), for hazardous materials or so-called "HazMat" means
substances that may pose a risk to public health, the environment or property if not adequately
In general, HazMat incidents include accidents and unintentional acts. In essence, they can be
managed and controlled by professional intervention. In most cases, they do not involve
disasters and mass injuries. However, we cannot rule out that an incident caused
unintentionally but through negligence can also have repercussions for large sections of the
population. An example is the incident in Bhopal, where due to inadequate maintenance and
insufficient monitoring, deadly Methyl Isocyanate gas leaked from one of the tanks of the
factory (50). Another example is the explosion of presumably improperly stored explosives in
Beirut in August 2020, where more than 200 people were killed and thousands injured (51).
While we are mentioning CBRN-E incidents, according to U.S. National Library of Medicine
(49), these are the intentional and harmful acts. The aim of such acts is primarily to cause fatal
or other injuries, mass psychosis and, in certain cases, the disintegration of society. In this
context, it is therefore important to examine the motive.
Steven Pike (52) also discusses the differences between CBRN and HazMat incidents in
relation to three variables. These are the intent, risk and extent of the incident. If an accidental
chemical leak occurs in a HazMat event as a result of an accident during transport or as a
result of a fire, then in a CBRN-E event we speak of intentional or aggressive acts. These
result in physical or environmental damage.
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
Pike (52) further emphasizes that the degree of risk also characterizes a certain difference
between the two types of incidents. Intervention in the HazMat situation emphasizes the
safety of staff and the public. Whereas operations in CBRN-E acts involve the acceptance of a
higher level of risk.
Even according to the guidelines of the Surrey and Sussex police, the abbreviation CBRN
should always be used only for deliberate, malicious, murderous, or intentional attacks or
threats. The objective of such crime is to cause harm or fear by using, or threatening to use,
CBRN materials (39).
Another of the definitions according to Ramseger, A., Kalinowski, M. B. and Weiß, L.
includes both CBRN incident and hazardous materials. It refers to the incident "that has
already taken place, with damage caused by hazardous CBRN material" (26). The above
authors defined CBRN threats as probable threats coming up from CBRN substances but also
including dangerous situations such as intentional criminal acts of war, or unintentional
As we can see from the historical overview of unintentional incidents with hazardous
materials, most of them had one common denominator. Intervening specialists knew in
advance the potential dangers that awaited them. For example, in the event of a tanker
accident, substances leaking into the environment were known, or in the event of an
accidental explosion in an industrial plant, it was known what substances leaked into the air.
On the other hand, intervention in a CBRN-E incident often involves unknown substances.
Efforts must therefore be made in particular to identify them through the detection and
sampling, as well as to further investigate the environment, the crime scene, the persons
involved, and to gather intelligence.
However, it is important to be aware of the fact that in most cases it is not possible to
determine at the initial intervention whether the cause of the incident was an accident or
intentional. In such situations, there are always a huge number of unknowns. It takes time and
precise examination of the situation and circumstances, and obtaining as much information as
possible, although we can assume that this is a pure accident without a criminal background.
After all, an accident can be caused, say, by a tank officially carrying ammonia (according to
original knowledge, documents and official designation), but in reality, it is carrying another
type of highly dangerous chemical intentionally replaced by criminal group in order to
mislead and endanger the intervening components.
Should we approach the incident as HazMat, do we use the theories defined above? Do the
first or second responders in the HazMat incident always know in advance what type of
danger they are dealing with? For this reason, it is necessary to treat each incident as a
potential criminal offence and to take all measures to secure potential evidence for further
investigation. Thus, even if it appears there is the presence of hazardous materials without
intent to cause harm, we believe it is important to treat the incident investigation as having
used CBRN-E material with a potentially harmful intent, regardless of whether we initially
name the incident as a HazMat or a CBRN-E incident.
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
If we are talking about a CBRN-E incident, and during the investigation potentially criminal
intent is ruled out and the accident is confirmed, the incident may be renamed from CBRN-E
to HazMat (32), which, in our opinion, does not make sense.
The above conclusions, based on a review of the literature, do not mean that in all countries
the characteristics of the incident with hazardous materials are as unintentional, accidental,
and lower risk. However, in the criminal laws of many countries, we have discovered a
definition of intentional offences using both hazardous and CBRN-E materials. This applies
in particular to the sections relating to the offences of terrorism, the public threat or the
environment. Therefore, we dare to say that it is not always appropriate to divide incidents
into CBRN-E and HazMat. In the current development, such a division is unfounded and
trends suggest that all incidents, whether intentional or unintentional, are beginning to be
referred to as CBRN-E incidents in many countries. The use of the term HazMat is logical,
especially in connection with the transport of these materials, and not from the point of view
of the intervention of safety and rescue services.
Finally, whether we define an intentional incident as HazMat or as CBRN depending on
national legislation, the most important thing is to focus on an adequate response. These
include the early saving of lives, the correct detection and identification of the substance, the
prevention of any further spread of the substance into the environment, and the provision of
the evidence necessary to identify the cause of the incident and the potential perpetrators.
1.2 Division of CBRN-E / HazMat incidents
To the best of our knowledge, CBRN-E / HazMat incidents can generally be divided into two
main categories:
I. Natural and technological
II. Human-made
I. Natural and technological incidents
I.a) Natural accidents (indirect and direct escape of dangerous substances)
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
Natural CBRN-E / HazMat incidents can be considered such accidents in which human being
could not in any way influence the cause and prevent the release of hazardous substances into
the environment. These are mainly the consequences of meteorological and geological
circumstances. We can talk about strong winds and storms, blizzards, landslides, earthquakes,
tsunamis, floods caused by bad weather, fires caused by no human influence, and volcanic
eruptions affecting facilities containing hazardous substances, etc.
These are incidents in which, under the influence of natural elements, the functions of
technology do not fail, but rather there may be partial or total destruction of objects and
equipment and subsequent indirect release of substances into the environment, where even
perfect preparedness for a natural incident may not be enough.
One of the many examples of the first subcategory is the leaching of hazardous chemicals
such as chlorine, mercury and dioxins from the Spolana Neratovice industrial plant in the
Czech Republic by the river Elbe. The cause was massive floods caused by long, heavy rains,
which flooded the strategic parts of the factory (53).
Figure 3: Michal Sváček / MAFRA / Profimedia
Another example is an earthquake in the Nisqually Valley in the state of Washington in the
United States in 2001, which resulted in a leak followed by an explosion of a natural gas line.
As a result, a fire engulfed the Cedar Creek Correctional Center. Two workers were injured in
this case (54).
The second subcategory is natural incidents, where dangerous substances are released into the
environment directly from a natural source (e.g. volcanic gases after an eruption or dioxins
produced by a forest fire after prolonged droughts) (55). It can also be a natural outbreak of
infectious diseases.
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
I.b) Natural-technological
In this category we can see accidents in which hazardous materials have been released as a
combination of a natural disaster and technological malfunction (55).
One example of a CBRN-E natural-technological incident is the disaster at the Fukushima
nuclear power plant. A 15-meter tsunami caused by a strong magnitude earthquake measuring
9 on the Richter scale cut off power and consequently the cooling system of three Fukushima
Daiichi reactors stopped working. This started the nuclear accident on March 11, 2011.
Subsequently, for three days, all three reactor cores largely melted. In total, a radioactive
release of about 940 PBq (I-131 eq.) was recorded (56).
The only way to prevent the release of hazardous materials into the environment in this type
of incident is the precise planning of technological solutions for buildings with the presence
of CBRN-E materials and preparedness for all possible natural scenarios in the region.
Figure 4: ISEM Institute (Depositphotos)
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
I.c Technological accidents
In this category we can include accidents caused by technological wear, short circuit of
electronic components, explosion or accidental failure of equipment without human
intervention, as a result of which dangerous substances leak into the environment. An
example is the deterioration of containers / packaging material in undiscovered / abandoned
storage premises. By deterioration of containers, we can understand damage due to the
fragility of glass bottles, perforation or degradation of plastic containers, and corrosion or
puncture of metal containers (57).
In addition to the wear and tear of materials, human failure may be preceded by human error,
either as part of the construction and design of the equipment or caused during its operation
by non-compliance with the relevant standards. In such a case, however, these are already
human-made technological incidents, which leads to a link to the following category II.
According to the WHO definition, technological accidents are defined as: “Accidents at
hazardous installations (e.g. accidental release or explosions at chemical or nuclear power
plants), and accidents while hazardous substances are in transport (e.g. oil tankers or
chemicals transported by trains, tankers or lorries” (58).
Among the well-known technological accidents with a very serious impact, where the human
factor also played a role, we can include the cases in Bhopal, Mexico City, Basel, Seveso, the
"Exxon Valdez” oil spill, and Chernobyl (59).
Figure 5: ISEM Institute (Depositphotos)
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
II. CBRN-E Human-made incidents
Human-made incidents may be subject to criminal law or administrative law. Whether the
accident is caused intentionally, unintentionally due to negligence, or as a result of duty´s
neglect, the degree of fault, the damage caused and the consequences, including the impact on
health and the environment, are always assessed depending on national legislation. From this,
the appropriate penalty is derived either under the criminal law (crime) or in terms of
infringement proceedings (infraction).
II.a Unintentional
In most cases, this is an offence involving negligence or negligent conduct. However, if
serious damage to property, health and the environment has been caused, the conduct may be
considered a criminal offence under the legislation of the country concerned. This category
may include, for example:
- Disregard of safety regulations
- Accidents caused by malpractice or negligence
- Lapse / Failure - Neglect or breach of the duty.
All personnel working with HazMat or CBRN-E material have a legal obligation to act with
reasonable care towards others and the environment. If this legal obligation is neglected, the
accident may occur quickly.
For example, it may be a matter of forgetting the source of ionizing radiation in a place that is
accessible to the public. Another example is the accident in the United States from the year
1991, where a Southern Refrigerated Transport, Inc.´s truck carrying a toxic fungicide
crashed. The chemicals spilled into a nearby river and killed a lot of fish. The court held the
carrier liable for the value of the fish killed because of negligence while the truck driver was
performing his duty (60).
The recent case of Dahej, India, from June 2020 may also be a warning example of
negligence. After an explosion in a pesticide factory owned by Yashashvi Rasayan Pvt Ltd in
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
Gujarat’s Dahej, eight people died, more than 50 workers were injured, and 4,800 people
were evacuated to avoid further loss of lives. The factory manufactured over 15 different
environmental and health hazard chemicals, such as 4-Amino Benzonitrile, 2,4,5-
Trichloroaniline, 4-Nitrobenzonitrile, and 2,3-Dichloroaniline. According to official
statement, the chemicals in the factory were mishandled. The probable reason was human
error or negligence of management because skilled labor was unavailable as a result of the
nationwide COVID-19 lockdown (61).
There are thousands of similar cases of accidents during the transport of HazMat materials
and accidents in chemical plants around the world.
Figure 6: ISEM Institute (Depositphotos)
II.b Intentional
Intentional CBRN-E incidents are considered mostly a crime by all countries. It is a deliberate
breach of security regulation and a deliberate criminal act committed by individuals or groups
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of criminals, and an act of terrorism (law impact, medium impact, serious, organized crime
and terrorism).
The UK Center for the Protection of National Infrastructure defines the acronym CBRN as a
malicious act in the following way:
• “Chemical: Poisoning or injury caused by chemical substances, including traditional
(military) chemical warfare agents, harmful industrial or household chemicals.
• Biological: Illnesses caused by the deliberate release of dangerous bacteria or viruses or by
biological toxins (eg ricin, found in castor oil beans).
• Radiological: Illness caused by exposure to harmful radioactive materials.
• Nuclear: Life-threatening health effects caused by exposure to harmful radiation, thermal or
blast effects arising from a nuclear detonation (62). “
In certain circumstances, intentional conduct relating to CBRN-E and hazardous materials
may be considered an infraction when it violates of an administrative regulation only, but this
depends on national legislation. However, such action must not cause significant damage to
health, property or the environment and must not be in line with organize group or terrorist
intent. Therefore, it doesn’t fall under the criminal law. It concerns mainly the offence against
There are many examples of intentional crimes and offences. Some of them are listed in the
following chapter. We provide also some examples below:
CBRN Act of terrorism, Chlorine bomb case in Indonesia - 2015
Figure 7: Indonesian CSI Police
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
CBRN crime against environment, Wolf Mountains case Slovakia, 2018
Figure 8: Slovak police
CBRN crime against public security illicit trafficking of radioactive material
Pribenik case Slovakia, 2007
Figure 9: Slovak police
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
1.3 CBRN-E crimes
As follows from the conclusions of subchapter 1.2, we propose following definition of
CBRN-E crimes.
CBRN-E crime can be considered to be such an offence that is included in the relevant
category of offences directed against public safety and security, health, human and animal
life, plants, soil, air, water, forest, environment, property, nation, state, humanity, peace,
international regulations and the economy in the criminal or similar law of a given country,
and which in any way includes directly or indirectly hazardous CBRN-E materials. CBRN
materials can be also dispersed using explosives in certain specific crimes, and therefore we
add (E) - explosives to the abbreviation “CBRN”.
Back to our abbreviation concept, we could say, the CBRN-E crimes are:
Extreme acts.
Finally, this Crime Began Rapidly Non-stop Evolving.
Based on practical experience, we consider it important to either incorporate a separate
category of CBRN-E offences into the legislation or to automatically define existing offences
using CBRN-E and hazardous materials as an aggravating circumstance. In particular, there is
a need to analyse developments in this area effectively and regularly, for which statistics on
individual types of CBRN-E crime could be used. These statistics can be useful in predicting
CBRN-E criminal behavior in certain regions and countries and can help prevent such
behavior, including potential terrorist attacks, smuggling of CBRN material, illegal dumping
of CBRN material into environment by organised groups, etc.
There are several reasons for extending an aggravating circumstance in criminal law to
criminal offences. The first is the use or attempt to use hazardous CBRN-E materials that can
significantly endanger the health and life of individuals or groups, as well as the environment
due to cross-contamination, rapid spread or intrusion into the environment, and potential
prolonged exposure depending on persistence; substance or half-life in the case of
radionuclides. Thus, even in the case of an attack with dangerous materials on one person, the
consequences could have a wider impact on a wider range of people, the environment and
property (eg: attack with nerve agent Novichok - Scripal case in UK, 2018) (63).
As another example, we can cite the use of an iron rod in an intentional crime of injury to
health by an offender whose motive was anger-related to wrongdoing and performed the
criminal act under the influence of emotional agitation. The perpetrator committed the crime
independently and had had no previous criminal record. He took the iron rod in his hand
because he had it at his disposal. He didn't take it with him in advance to attack. He was a
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person of good repute, and other parts of the aggravating circumstantial paragraph do not
apply to the act itself. Attenuating circumstances would apply to the judgment.
However, if the same perpetrator had used a dangerous chemical instead of an iron rod, which
he coincidentally had on hand due to its professional use, the attack would automatically have
been considered an aggravating circumstance. It is understandable, however, that other special
circumstances would have to be taken into account, which could possibly alleviate or
eliminate the aggravating circumstance. In any case, depending on the type of chemical, the
resulting impact and severity of the health and environmental consequences at the point of
use, as well as of other persons, should also be assessed.
However, if the perpetrator had planned the attack and illegally procured the CBRN-E
substance in advance, he automatically would have committed another crime. Depending on
national legislation, the concurrence of the two offences could thus be considered an
aggravating circumstance. Some countries, such as the US, the UK (Section 1, 4 / C of the
Counter-terrorism and Sentencing Act 2021), Spain (section 455 of the Criminal Code),
Russia (Article 63 of the Criminal Code), Kazakhstan (Art. 54), Kirghizstan (Art. 55),
Cambodia (Art. 458), Philippines (Art. 14), Moldova (Art. 77), Tajikistan (Art. 62), Mongolia
(Art. 56), partly also Belgium for theft offences (Art. 472 , 477), etc. already have aggravating
circumstance incorporated into their laws in connection to the use of CBRN-E / toxic,
poisoning or dangerous materials. Some other countries use aggravating circumstances for
offences related to CBRN-E materials using other terminology without citing CBRN-E or
hazardous substances (e.g.: serious conduct, in particularly dangerous form, etc.). However,
this way of aggravated circumstances can be interpreted differently by law enforcement
authorities and may not always be unambiguous.
Another reason for creating a separate category of CBRN-E crimes is a specific approach to
their investigation and criminal assessment of the circumstances in which hazardous materials
have been used or misused. For security forces, it is primarily a matter of recognizing the
special responsibility and importance of particular procedures related to intervention under
CBRN-E conditions, e.g., detection of threat, risk assessment, the collecting of evidence at the
crime scene, the forensic analysis, but also the protection of the health and life of
investigators and other intervening forces. Whether it is intervening SWAT teams, K9, EOD,
undercover intelligence teams, special operation teams, special security and protection forces
(body guards), public order police, CBRN units or on-site investigators, procedures and
tactics for various situations and scenarios must be adequately set up and put into practice.
Equally important is the interaction with other non-police forces such as fire fighters, civil
protection agencies, civil defence, environmental agencies, public health authorities, nuclear
regulatory bodies, radiological institutes, biological and chemical laboratories, military CBRN
protection battalions, international non-profit organizations like Red Cross, Red Crescent,
Médecins Sans Frontières, International Security and Emergency Management Institute –, etc. Mutual cooperation and training of the police, rescue service and fire
brigade, are the bases of success for a timely response to a CBRN-E incident. Each agency
must have information on the roles of the other agency in order to make synergies as effective
as possible and to avoid the implementation of malpractices that would slow down or prevent
the spread of CBRN-E threats, save lives and secure the scene of a crime for the following
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
investigation. The specialization of security forces, the prosecutor's office and the judiciary in
this area would also have a significant positive impact on the proceedings and the delivery of
judgments that reflect the substance of the offence to punish perpetrators.
Eurojust is the only EU institution that officially registers a separate category of CBRN-E
crimes and pays them due attention at the European level. In general, it divides crimes into ten
categories (33):
• Core international crimes
• Crimes against children
• Cybercrime
• Drug trafficking
• Economic crimes
• Migrant smuggling
• PIF crimes
• Terrorism
Trafficking in human beings
As we can see, CBRN-E crimes figure among them in a separate group for their specificity
and severity with an impact on society, public health and the environment. Eurojust has
produced a very comprehensive guide called the EUROJUST CBRN-E Handbook, which
provides an overview of the international legislation applicable to the CBRN-E
It is important to note that some CBRN-E offences are conditional and interconnected. In
addition to producing CBRN-E weapons, a terrorist group can specifically obtain CBRN-E
materials from an unauthorized landfill, steal them from industrial warehouses or during
transport, and use them to attack. It is worth mentioning the fact that in many countries there
are different types of illegal landfills for hazardous waste and they are easily accessible.
These are surface landfills in forests, in meadows in the peripheral parts of villages, in
abandoned buildings, old farms, or below the surface in old disused mining tunnels, etc.
Therefore, in this context, we are also talking about a close link between CBRN-E crime and
environmental crime, as we have indicated above.
1.3.1 Environmental crime and links to hazardous materials
The link between environmental crime and hazardous substances characterizes the impact on
the environment and the health of the population. From a legal point of view, environmental
crime is incorporated in several international documents. It is being addressed by both the
European Union and the United Nations.
This type of crime involves a wide range of malicious acts. It is worth mentioning the five
basic areas of environmental crime defined in the framework of the United Nations
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Environment Program and the initiatives of the United Nations Interregional Research
Institute for Crime and Justice. It is about (64):
- Storage and illegal transport of various types of hazardous waste in breach of the 1989 Basel
Convention on the Control of Hazardous Wastes and Other Wastes;
- Illicit trade in ozone-depleting substances (ODS) in violation of the Montreal Protocol of
- Illegal trade in wild animals in violation of the Washington Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) of 1973;
- Illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing in contravention of controls imposed by
the RFMO's various regional fisheries management rights;
- Illegal logging and timber trade under national law.
From the above categories, we can include the first two in CBRN-E crime.
In its Directive 2008/99 / EC of 19 November 2008 on the protection of the environment
through criminal law, the European Parliament and the Council instruct EU member states to
criminalize the intentional or grossly negligent conduct described below (65):
- "the discharge, emission or introduction of quantities of substances or ionizing radiation
into the air, soil or water which causes or is likely to cause death or serious injury or
substantial damage to air quality, soil quality, water quality or to animals or plants;
- the collection, transport, recovery or disposal of waste, including the supervision of such
operations and the after-care of disposal facilities and the action taken by traders or
intermediaries (waste management) which cause or are likely to cause death or serious
injury or damage to air quality, soil quality, water quality or animals or plants;
- the operation of a plant in which a hazardous activity is carried out or in which dangerous
substances or preparations are stored or used and which, outside that plant, cause or are
likely to cause death or serious injury or significant damage to air quality, soil quality,
quality water or on animals or plants;
- the production, processing, handling, use, holding, storage, transport, import, export or
disposal of nuclear material or other dangerous radioactive substances which cause or are
likely to cause death or serious injury to health or substantial damage to air quality, soil,
water quality or on animals or plants. "
As stated on the Europol website (66), environmental crime is very lucrative. It can generate
the same benefits as, for example, drug trafficking. At present, however, the sanctions are
much lower and it is very difficult to detect. To this end, EnviCrimeNet has been set up as an
informal network linking EU police and other anti-crime organizations.
Individual countries decide on sanctions for environmental crimes with the same penalties as
for traditional crimes. In reality, however, in court judgments we very often encounter only
fines and, rarely, convictions (67).
As we have already mentioned in the previous subchapters, the illegal trade in waste
containing CBRN materials has its background in criminal groups. The perpetrators of these
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
crimes are mainly persons who are able to control the entire cycle of processing and transport
of waste up to the landfills themselves. Trade between countries takes place through legal
structures which, thanks to their networks of companies, which often have just one owner, can
ensure a smooth transport to the destination. Other criminal offences, such as forgery of
documents, money laundering, corruption, tax fraud, etc., are subsequently associated with
this criminal activity (68).
1.3.2 Legislative overview and categorisation of CBRN-E crimes
Each country has different categories of crime defined in its criminal code or other connected
codes. Some countries specifically mention CBRN-E and / or hazardous materials in their
individual criminal codes, and some laws do not mention them at all. As an example, for
comparison, we present a review of criminal and other similar laws (environmental codes,
nuclear energy acts, war weapons control acts, counter-terrorism acts, etc.) from selected 40
countries in America, Europe, Asia and Africa. We drew information from Legislation
Online, CBRN CoE Project 61 (69) and directly from colleagues from many police agencies.
However, at the time of publication of this article, some of them may have been updated and
the information below may no longer apply.
With regard to offences related to explosives (E), all of the criminal and similar laws we
studied contained paragraphs relating to explosives, whether they were definitions or a
specific description of the offences.
Terms such as CBRN, toxic substances, asphyxiating gases, suffocating or burning
substances, toxins, pathogens, dangerous infectious diseases, bacteriological and toxic
weapons, chemical weapons, radiological and nuclear weapon, radiation sources, poisons,
dangerous substances, hazardous material, destructive, injurious, obnoxious, noxious or
harmful substance, lethal device, harmful industrial or domestic waste, etc. were contained
individually or in combination in the criminal and related codes of those countries. They were
found in the section on general terms and definitions, in the sections relating to aggravating
circumstances and / or in the characterization of individual offences within the relevant
categories of offences, or in reference to other related laws. They were automatically included
in laws banning chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Some, mostly large countries, deal
with CBRN materials as part of separate terrorism-related laws. In some criminal codes, these
terms have been described in detail or their definitions have been found in the associated legal
norms in order to avoid double interpretation. The most detailed interpretation of the above-
mentioned terms was found in the US Criminal Code.
Albania has accurately incorporated the terms CBRN, bacteriological, poisonous, toxic waste,
hazardous and dangerous substances into several sections of its criminal law. In most cases,
they relate to terrorist offences, the manufacturing of military weapons and training to commit
acts of terrorist intent (Chapter VII - Acts of terrorist intentions: Articles 230, 232, 234). In
Chapter VIII, Section III on criminal offences against public order and security, the term
CBRN and dangerous substances is mentioned several times, eg: Articles 282 / b - Training
on unlawful manufacturing and use of weapons and other dangerous substances, Art. 285 -
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
Keeping, producing, and transporting chemical substances, Articles 288 - Producing and
selling food and other substances dangerous to the health. We cite the last-mentioned article:
“Producing, importing, storing or selling foods, drinks and other substances, or drugs which
are dangerous or harmful to life or health, as well as introducing chemicals, materials or
additive substances into the production and processing of food and drinks, when those acts
led to death or serious harm to the health of an individual, is punishable by fine or up to ten
years of imprisonment.”
It is also necessary to mention environmental crimes. They are found in Chapter IV, which
deals with toxic radioactive substances and toxic waste in several paragraphs.
Belgium also broadly includes the terms CBRN and dangerous substances in several sections
of the Penal Code. For example, Article 137 contains both terms in the two paragraphs of
paragraph 3, which define terrorist offence:
“3 ° the manufacture, possession, acquisition, transport or delivery of nuclear, biological,
radiological or chemical weapons, the use of nuclear, biological, radiological or chemical
weapons, as well as the carrying out of research into and the development of radiological or
chemical weapons;
4 ° the release of dangerous substances which endanger human life.” Terms such as
bacteriological weapons and toxins also appear in this section.
The act of poisoning is punishable by life imprisonment according to Article 397 and it is
explained as "the killing by means of substances that can more or less quickly cause death, in
whatever way these substances are used or administered."
Belgium has created a separate chapter in the Criminal Code dedicated to THREATS OF
RELATING TO SERIOUS ATTACKS. Article 331 specifically mentions radioactive and
nuclear substances or devices, chemical and biological weapons and substances in connection
with threats of the use of these substances or attacks on nuclear installations or their theft. A
separate section 477 is devoted to the theft of nuclear material. Section 488 deals with the
unauthorized use of radioactive and nuclear materials. The term toxic substances is used in
connection with the aggravating circumstance of theft in Articles 472 and 477.
Article 140 further deals with criminal offences related to the instruction and education of the
production and use of hazardous materials. We can also take into account Articles 454 to 456
on selling poisoned food.
The Kingdom of Belgium also adopted a law in 2006 entitled Law on Weapons, which deals
with prohibited weapons in Art 3:
"10 ° objects intended to hit persons with poisonous, asphyxiating, tear-producing or similar
substances, with the exception of medical devices." In 2007, the act was amended where
uranium munitions were included together with other types of weapons.
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
In Canadian criminal law, CBRN materials are also included in several crimes. However, great
emphasis is placed on radioactive and nuclear materials. For example, in Wilful and forbidden
acts in respect of certain properties”, the following definition of lethal device is given under
Article 431-2: “weapon or device that is designed to cause, or is capable of causing, death,
serious bodily injury or substantial material damage through the release, dissemination or
impact of toxic chemicals, biological agents or toxins or similar substances, or radiation or
radioactive material (Explosive or other engineered engine)." This definition applies to the
offence attack on premises, accommodation or transport of United Nations or associated
personnel. The Canadian Criminal Code further defines hazardous materials and devices with
appropriate sanctions (nuclear explosive device, radioactive material disperser or device
emitting radiation) in Part II - Offences against public order. Possession, use, alteration of
radioactive and nuclear material or device and commission of indictable offence to obtain
nuclear material are also punished under Articles 82.3 82.4 and 82.5. Interestingly, the general
part of the law separately mentions nuclear terrorism offences committed outside Canada (2.21)
in connection with the navigation of vessels under the flag of Canada or on an aircraft.
Chinese criminal law explicitly mentions only nuclear and radioactive materials. Specifically,
Paragraph 187. We quote: “A person who manufactures, sells, transports, or possesses nuclear
raw material, nuclear fuel, nuclear reactor, a radioactive substance or its raw material not
according to the law shall be sentenced to imprisonment of not more than five years. A person
who uses radioactive without a justified season and causes damage to another’s body or health
shall be sentenced to imprisonment for not less than three years but not more than ten years."
In addition, Article 150 on public threats mentions hazardous materials in connection with
committing an offence.
In its criminal law, Croatia mentions both CBRN materials and hazardous substances, poison
and contagious disease. They are mainly contained in the following categories: Crimes against
humanity and human dignity - Section IX, in which terrorism is also found. They are further:
Criminal offences against the environment - Section XX, Criminal offences against the health
of people - Section XIX and Offences against general safety - Section XXI.
Czech Republic
The Criminal Code in the Czech Republic, specifically in Title VII - General Dangerous
Crimes, in paragraphs 280 to 286, lists criminal offences related to the production, import,
export, transport, storage, or procurement of radioactive substances, nuclear materials, highly
dangerous chemical substances or their precursors, as well as poisons. In the sections of Title
VIII on environmental crime, terms such as dangerous and noxious substances appear. The
Criminal Code of the Czech Republic also mentions CBRN substances in paragraph 311
concerning terrorism.
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
In Estonian Penal Code, we can find two paragraphs mentioning chemical, toxic biological
and bacteriological weapons.
Development and handling of prohibited weapons (§ 93):
“(1) Designing, manufacturing, storing, acquiring, handing over, selling or providing or
offering for use in any other manner of a chemical, biological or bacteriological weapon or
any other internationally prohibited weapon of mass destruction or other weapon, or
essential components thereof, is punishable by three to twelve years’ imprisonment.” The
penal code also allows pecuniary punishment in case if the act was committed by a legal
Another paragraph (§ 103) relates to the use of prohibited weapons including chemical,
bacteriological and biological material, and expands the description to a wider range of
weapons of mass destruction like “toxic weapons, toxic or asphyxiating gases, booby traps,
i.e. explosives disguised as small harmless objects, expanding bullets, weapons injuring by
fragments which escape X-rays, or other internationally prohibited weapons, or large-scale
use of incendiary weapons under conditions where the military objective cannot be clearly
separated from the civilian population, civilian objects or the surrounding environment.”
Dangerous infectious diseases are mentioned in § 192 and 193.
Some paragraphs also describe the offences connected to radiation sources: § 199, 200, 218,
237, 411, 412.
Section 22 describes the offences dangerous to the public. Especially in § 403, the act of
dangerous poisoning the/in public related to the “intentional poisoning of air, public water
supplies or an object intended for transfer or grant of use, or knowing delivery or handing
over of a poisoned object.”
Finland uses a wide range of definitions and offences in criminal law in relation to CBRN,
including poison, poisonous, hazardous, dangerous, noxious substances, etc.
A special category is war crimes: Chapter 11 - War crimes and crimes against humanity.
CBRN materials and weapons are cited in the crimes "Breach of prohibition of CBRN
weapons in several sections". Offences related to health threats using hazardous substances
are incorporated in up to two chapters. Chapter 34 - Endangerment and Chapter 44 = Offences
endangering health and safety. Examples are Section 9 - Genetic technology offence
(848/2004) and Section 13 - Transport of dangerous substances offence.
Chapter 48 deals with environmental offences with the incorporation of several crimes using
hazardous materials.
Very interesting is Chapter 15 - Offences against the administration of justice, which includes
in Section 10 the offence “Failure to report a serious offence” (563/1998). This crime is
related, inter alia, to the aggravated endangerment of health and nuclear device offences.
Another important category is the crimes of terrorism in Chapter 34a, where the law mentions
CBRN materials several times.
In the French Criminal Code, in Section 2, entitled Destruction, degradation and deterioration
dangerous for people, there is a paragraph 322-6-1 which explicitly includes CBRN materials.
"The fact of disseminating by any means, except for by professionals, processes allowing the
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
manufacture of destructive devices made from powder or explosive substances, nuclear,
biological or chemical materials, or from any other product intended for domestic, industrial
or agricultural use, is punishable by three years' imprisonment and a fine of 45,000 euros.” It
is interesting to cite another part of paragraph: “The penalties are increased to five years'
imprisonment and a fine of 75,000 euros when an electronic communication network intended
for an undetermined audience has been used for the dissemination of the procedures.” In
Paragraph 421-2-6, the term CBRN is also used. Paragraph 412-5 penalizes the offence of
participation in an insurrectionary movement if explosives and hazardous materials are used.
The term dangerous materials or items is mentioned in the category of offences against the
nation, state or public policy (R 641-1).
In France, starting in 2002, and later, after a major reform in 2012, environmental crime has
been regulated under the Environmental Code, which also includes several references to
hazardous but also chemical, biological, nuclear and radioactive material in relation to
transport and environmental impacts. Several law enforcement agencies are involved in
investigating this type of crime (e.g., OCLAESP Gendarmerie Nationale).
Georgian criminal law includes both CBRN and hazardous substances in several categories of
crime. For example, Article 288 - Violation of the procedures for handling environmentally
hazardous substances or waste or Article 289 - Violation of the procedure for handling
microbiological or other biological agents or toxins under CHAPTER XXXVI - Crime against
Environmental Protection mentions toxins, bacteriological, biological, chemical, toxic or
environmentally hazardous substances or waste in connection to violation of procedures for
handling those substances. Act of Making land unfit for use under Article 297 is defined as:
“1. Poisoning, degradation or making land otherwise unfit for use with harmful substances
during entrepreneurial, economic or other activities caused by the breach of the procedure
for handling fertilizers, plant growth stimulants, pesticides, other chemical or biological
substances during their storage, use or transport that results in damage to human health or
damage of the environment. "
Acts related to the use of substances harmful to the health are provided in Articles 292 - 295
under the same chapter related to environmental protection.
Nuclear and radioactive materials are mentioned in Articles 230; 231, 232; 233 and 234,
toxic chemical and chemical weapons in Article 235.
Finally, we can find a description of acts using CBRN materials under Chapter XXXVIII
related to terrorism -
Article 324 - Technological Terrorism.
Germany has incorporated the concepts of CBRN and hazardous materials into the two main
standards of law enforcement and addresses the issue very comprehensively.
Chapter 28 in the criminal code, named as offences constituting public danger, includes in
Section 307 the offence - causing (a) nuclear explosion. It covers both intentional and
negligent offences. The law similarly in Section 309 includes Misuse of ionizing radiation.
This part is interesting mainly because it concerns not only the threat to human health but also
the negative impact on the environment, plants and animals. We quote: “(1) Whoever, with
the intention of damaging the health of another person, undertakes to expose that person to
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
ionizing radiation which is capable of being damaging to health, incurs a penalty of
imprisonment for a term of between one year and 10 years.”
(6) Whoever, with the intention of
1. impairing the usability of property of significant value belonging to another;
2. permanently altering the properties of a body of water, the air or soil in a negative manner
3. damaging animals or plants of significant value belonging to another, exposes the
property, body of water, air, soil, animals or plants to ionizing radiation which is capable of
causing such impairments, alterations or damage, incurs a penalty of imprisonment for a
term not exceeding five years, or a fine. The attempt is punishable.”
Paragraphs 310, 311, 312 also deal with radioactive sources and include offences called
“Preparing explosion or radiation offence”, “Releasing ionizing radiation” and “Faulty
construction of a nuclear facility”.
Section 89a defines the preparation of a serious act of violence endangering the state. It
contains “instructs another person or allows himself to be instructed in the manufacture of or
in handling dangerous material”, like explosive devices, nuclear fuel, radioactive devices,
poisonous substances, or other substances harmful to health.
Chapter 29 of the criminal code focuses on environmental crime and it includes terms
characterizing hazardous material such as poison, toxic, disease agents, etc.
“(1) Whoever, without being authorized to do so, outside a facility which is authorized
therefor or in substantial deviation from the prescribed or authorized procedure, collects,
ships, treats, utilises, stores, deposits, discharges, disposes of or trades in, brokers or
otherwise commercializes waste which:
1. contains or can produce poisons or disease agents which constitute a public danger and
can be communicated to humans or animals;
2. is carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction in humans;
3. is prone to explode, is spontaneously combustible or of more than merely minor radioactive
quality or;
4. because of its nature, composition or quantity is capable of
(a) permanently contaminating or otherwise negatively altering a body of water, the air or
soil or
(b) endangering an animal or plant population, incurs a penalty of imprisonment for a term
not exceeding five years, or a fine. "
Section 328 deals with unauthorized handling of radioactive substances and other hazardous
substances and goods and Section 330 includes especially serious offences against the
environment, like causing severe danger by releasing poisons.
Another law called the War Weapons Control Act deals primarily with crimes related to the
development, producing, trading, acquiring, transferring, importing or exporting chemical,
biological and nuclear weapons. It also covers the act of inducing or encouraging another
person to commit the above-mentioned acts.
The Hungarian criminal code includes a reference to CBRN materials in several articles.
These are, for example, criminal offences with military items and services under Section 329.
We quote: “(2) Any person who: a) provides technical assistance for the development,
production, handling, operation, maintenance, repair, detection, identification or
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
dissemination of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices,
including the missiles capable of delivering such weapons."
Section 330 - Criminal Offences with dual-use items further includes a reference to chemical
weapons or instruments. Bacteriological, biological and toxin weapons are also mentioned in
the closing provisions under Section 459. The criminal code also lists offences such as illegal
operation of nuclear installations and crimes in connection with nuclear energy. Section 248,
devoted to the violation of waste management regulations, contains terms related to hazardous
waste and hazardous radioactive substances.
An interesting crime related to hazardous materials in Hungarian criminal law can be found in
the chapter Crime against consumer rights and any violation of competition laws. This is a
criminal offence under Section 417 Misleading consumers. This section describes the felony
of misleading information as an act committed in connection with certain properties of the
goods having an impact on health or on the environment, or it is considered as hazardous,
dangerous or risky.
The Icelandic penal code doesn’t provide any terminology related to CBRN substances.
However, the hazardous and toxic substances are mentioned in connection to terrorism
(Article 100/a), offences involving the danger to the public within the Chapter XVIII (Articles
171 and 172) and miscellaneous offences against the public interest under Chapter XIX
(Article 179). Article 169/a refers to nuclear material in connection to an act of its illegal
possession, use, transport, modification, release or dispersion.
Indian criminal law does not use the terms CBRN. However, in several chapters it includes
similar terminology relating mainly to chemical and biological substances. In the version
available to us (70), there is no mention of radioactive or nuclear materials. Chapter XIV -
Offences affecting the public health, safety, convenience, decency and morals contains
several terms of infection or disease dangerous to life, poison, noxious food and drink, etc.
For example, Section 326A is included in Chapter XVI - Offences affecting the human body.
Voluntarily causing grievous hurt by use of acid, or Section 324, which describes the crime of
Voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means - whoever, except in the case
provided for by section 334, voluntarily causes hurt by means of any instrument for shooting,
stabbing or cutting, or any instrument which, used as a weapon of offence, is likely to cause
death, or by means of fire or any heated substance, or by means of any poison or any
corrosive substance, or by means of any explosive substance or by means of any substance
which it is deleterious to the human body to inhale, to swallow, or to receive into the blood,
or by means of any animal, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a
term which may extend to three years, or with a fine, or with both.”
There is a similar legislative system in Ireland as in the UK. Criminal Justice (Terrorist
Offences) Act 2005 cites CBRN and hazardous substances several times. For example, Article
1 defines terrorist offences and fundamental rights and principles. The following shall be
considered as criminal offences, under point (f):
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
"Manufacture, possession, acquisition, transport, supply or use of weapons, explosives or of
nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, as well as research into, and development of,
biological and chemical weapons."
Or under point (g):"Release of dangerous substances, or causing fires, floods or explosions
the effect of which is to endanger human life."
Environmental crime is regulated by several acts, through which the EU Directives
(Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992, Protection of the Environment Act 2003,
Environmental (Miscellaneous Provisions) Acts 2011 and 2015, Waste Management Act
1996 (as amended) are implemented). There are also terms related to hazardous and CBRN
Kazakhstan, as the largest country in Central Asia, has also incorporated CBRN terminology
into many sections regarding crimes against peace and human security (Chapter 4), public
security and public order (Chapter 10), and the environment (Chapter 13).
Kirghizstan has similar criminal law provisions as neighbouring Kazakhstan. For example,
Article 266. Violation of the Rules for Managing Environmentally Hazardous Substances and
Waste in Environmental Crime uses terms such as radiological, bacteriological, chemical
substances and poisoning in connection to harm on human health and to the environment. In
addition, Article 204 - Contraband within the category Crimes in Economic activity area
describes the crime of transferring CBRN material through border to the territory of Kirghiz
Lithuania has combined environmental and human health crimes into one chapter (XXXVIII)
of the Criminal Code, using the terms hazardous substances and hazardous waste. Hazardous
substances are subsequently cited together with CBRN materials in articles related to
terrorism, e.g., Article 250 - Act of terrorism. Term toxic substances is also employed in the
Article 111 - Prohibited military attack within the Chapter XV - Crimes against humanity and
War crime, further in Article 199 - Smuggling within the Chapter XXXI Crimes and
Misdemeanours against the economy and businesses order and, in the Chapter XXXVII, -
Crimes and Misdemeanours relating to the possession of narcotics or psychotropic, toxic or
highly active substances.
Luxembourg uses the terms CBRN in its criminal law only in articles on terrorism. One of
them Article 135/10 in the section Terrorist attacks using explosives even combines the use of
explosives and CBRN materials, so we can officially see the meaning of using CBRN-E
abbreviation. The article also talks about a separate device that has the capacity to distribute
CBRN materials. The terms harmful and dangerous substances are also used in Art. 135
related to Crimes in connection to terrorist activities. In Luxembourg, there is also the so-
called legislation on environmental offences, where several laws regulate sanctions, especially
against infrastructure, where hazardous materials are also mentioned.
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
Moldovan criminal legislation includes CBRN terminology and a large number of related
terms in many crimes: economic, environmental and public security and public order.
One of the crimes that we have not identified in the criminal laws of other countries is worth
considering. It is Article 225 categorized into Environmental Crimes. It is a data concealment
or intentional disclosure of inauthentic data on environmental pollution. We quote: “Data
concealment or intentional disclosure by a person with a position of responsibility or by a
person managing a commercial, public or other non-state organization, as well as by a legal
entity, of inauthentic data on damage with excessive environmental pollution, with
radioactive, chemical, bacteriological pollution, or with other dangerous consequences for
the life or health of the population, as well as on the state of health of the population affected
by the environmental pollution, if it is caused by imprudence: a) the mass illness of humans ;
b) the mass destruction of animals; c) the death of the person; (d) other serious
Mongolian criminal law is also richly represented by the terms CBR, including poisonous,
hazardous and harmful material in several articles related to crimes against the environment
(e.g.: Article 206. Violation of the rules for cleaning, transportation and dumping of chemical
poisonous substances and industrial waste), crimes against security of mankind and peace.
However, there is no mention of nuclear materials. Article 84 - Sabotage in the context of
crimes against national security is also interesting. It contains several terms related mainly to
biological and chemical threats. We quote: “... spread of viral human, livestock or plant
diseases, mass poisoning of people or mass death of humans, livestock and animals with a
view of weakening the economic capacity of Mongolia shall be punishable by imprisonment
for a term of 15 to 20 years. "
The Moroccan criminal law makes no mention of CBRN materials. Substances harmful to
health and poisoning are mentioned in Chapter VII - Crimes and infractions against persons
(Articles 398, 413). Article 218 in the first chapter related to terrorism mentions substances
that endangers the health of humans or animals or the natural environment.
Dutch criminal law does not explicitly contain any terms such as CBRN substances. Article
385a on Serious Offences related to Shipping and Aviation mentions a hazardous load.
However, in the Crimes of Terrorism Act, terrorism-related offences are referred to in the
Nuclear Energy Act, the Biological Weapons Convention, and the Chemical Weapons
Convention, which cover the area of CBRN materials. Terms like hazardous materials or
toxic substances are covered by special Environmental law enforcement system
(Environmental law and other relevant norms) (71).
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
Article 165 of the Polish Criminal Code refers to epidemiological hazard (BIO) in Article XX
- Offences against public safety, Article 163 on the blast of explosives or flammable materials
or any other form of a violent release of energy, or poisonous, suffocating or burning
substances. Article171. § 1. specifically mentions: “Whoever, without a required permit, or in
breach of the conditions thereof, manufactures, processes, accumulates, possesses, uses or
trades in an explosive substance or device, radioactive material, device emitting ionizing
radiation or any other item or substance which may cause widespread danger to human life
or health, or to property of a considerable extent shall be subject to the penalty of the
deprivation of liberty for a term of between 6 months and 8 years.”
Chapter XXII - Crime against the environment, Article 183 paragraph 2 and paragraph 186
contain a reference to hazardous substances and radioactive material.
Russian criminal law deals with CBRN materials in many articles. For example, in Chapter
24, Crimes Against Public Security. Article 225/2 defines a criminal offence as: “Improper
discharge of the duties related to protecting nuclear, chemical or any other weapons of mass
destruction, or materials and equipment which can be used in the development of weapons of
mass destruction, if this has involved grave consequences or has created the threat of their
onset. “
Chapter 25. Crimes Against Human Health and Public Morality. It includes Article 226,
which refers, inter alia, to stealing, smuggling and possession of superpotent, poisonous,
toxic, explosive and radioactive substances, radiation sources and nuclear materials.
Article 247 within Chapter 26. Environmental crimes contains the offence of violation of the
rules for dealing with environmentally hazardous substances and waste: “Production of illicit
dangerous waste, transportation, storage, dumping, use, or any other circulation of
radioactive, bacteriological, or chemical substances or waste, with a violation of fixed rules,
if these acts have created a threat of infliction of substantial harm on human health or the
environment.“ In the same Chapter, there are other articles where dangerous and poisoning
materials are cited, as in Article 254. Deterioration of Land, etc.
Chapter 34, in Crimes Against the Peace and Security Mankind, there are also CBRN-related
phrases in relation to the development, manufacture, stockpiling, acquisition or the sale of
weapons of mass-destruction.
In Slovak legislation, the terms CBRN as well as HazMat are included in the category of
intentional criminal offences. For this reason, a special police unit has been set up to combat
environmental crime and crimes using hazardous materials. An example is Paragraph 295 on
illicit armaments and arms trafficking, where chemical weapons are mentioned. Other
examples are Sections 298 and 299 of the Criminal Code - illicit manufacture and possession
of nuclear materials, radioactive substances, high-risk chemicals and high-risk biological
agents and toxins, and Section 171 on the illicit possession of poisons in connection with
narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
We quote Paragraph 298: “Who, through negligence, without permission, manufactures,
imports, exports, transports, buys, sells, offers, exchanges, modifies, uses, transports, stores,
removes or otherwise procures or keeps nuclear or other radioactive material or a high-risk
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
chemical, or a high-risk biological agent or toxin, or items intended for their manufacture,
shall be punishable by a term of imprisonment from one to six years."
Another of the sections of the Criminal Code of the Slovak Republic concerns generally
dangerous criminal offences. This is Paragraph no. 284. The offence of general threat includes
the concept of a dangerous substance. We quote: “Who intentionally puts people at risk of
death or serious injury or property to the risk of large-scale damage by causing a fire or
flood, or a breakdown or accident of a means of public transport, or the harmful effect of
explosives, gas, electricity, radioactivity or other similarly dangerous substances or forces, or
commits other similar dangerous conduct (general danger) or increases or makes it more
difficult to avert or mitigate it, shall be punished by imprisonment from four to ten years.”
CBRN materials but also dangerous substances are also explicitly cited in Paragraph 419
relating to terrorism. With regard to environmental crimes, CBRN or hazardous materials are
not explicitly cited in them, but from the context of several paragraphs (300-309) it is possible
to perceive the threat to the environment by actions that may involve the use of hazardous
materials. In particular, however, the act of introducing and spreading a dangerous disease as
a biological threat is cited.
In the Slovenian Criminal Code, Section 108, Article 1 and Section 111, Article 2 on
terrorism, both CBRN materials and hazardous material are equally linked to intentional
South-East Asia
Some countries in South-East Asia have consistently incorporated the concepts of CBRN and
related terminology into criminal law. However, it mainly concerns terrorist offences or
public threats. For example, Cambodia uses several standards to prosecute crimes: Criminal
code (2011), Law on the prohibition of chemical, nuclear, biological and radiological
weapons (2009), Law on Counter-terrorism (2007), Law on the management of weapons,
explosives and ammunition and even in the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia (1993),
in which the manufacturing, use and storage of CBRN material is fully prohibited.
Malaysia deals in great detail with the concepts of CBRN and their equivalents in its
legislation. This applies to more standards. For example, it incorporated into its Criminal
Code (Act n. 574) several crimes using explosives, injurious, obnoxious, noxious, poisonous,
corrosive materials, as well as against health and the environment. E.g..: Adulteration of food
or drink which is intended for sale (Article 272) and the sale of noxious food and drink
(Article 273), and negligent conduct with respect to any poisonous substances (Article 284).
In the Philippines’ penal code, the term CBRN does not appear alone, but legislators have
used the terms poisonous or corrosive substances and infection or contagion. These are the
crime of murder in Section 52, serious damage to property in Section 75 and special cases of
malicious mischief in Section 328.
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
Criminal law includes the concepts of CBRN in several parts of Chapter 34 - Criminal
offences against humanity and other rights guaranteed by international law. These are, for
example, the crime of terrorism in Article 391 and related articles 391c and 391d, or War
Crimes against Civilian Population - Article 372. A mention of nuclear fuel, hazardous
material and waste can also be seen in Chapter 24 - Criminal offences against the
environment. The terminology related to nuclear materials also occurs in other offences in
Chapter 25 - Criminal offences against general safety of people and property (e.g.: Unlawful
Acquiring and Endangerment of Safety with Nuclear Material - Article 287).
Spanish criminal law describes quite extensively the offences in which CBRN and hazardous
materials are used. In the category of offences related to genetic manipulation, specifically in
Article 160, the offence of using genetic engineering for the production of a biological
weapon is described. In Article 566, within the category of offences against public policy, the
term CBRN appears in relation to the production, sale and creation of CBRN stockpiles of
weapons. Article 567 in the same category defines exactly what is meant by the development
of CBRN weapons: "The development of chemical, biological, nuclear or radiological
weapons, anti-personnel mines or cluster munitions is understood to be any activity
consisting of research or study of a scientific or technical nature aimed at the creation of a
new chemical, biological, nuclear or radiological weapon, or antipersonnel mine or cluster
munition or the modification of an existing one."
Articles 574 and 575 on terrorism also mention CBRN materials. Article 359 further deals in
criminal offences against public health with the illicit preparation of chemicals that may be
harmful to health. Hazardous materials are incorporated in criminal law in connection with
environmental crimes (Articles 325, 326, etc.).
CBRN terminology is not explicitly included in Swedish criminal law. However, in Chapter
22 defining the treason crime, there is a reference to chemicals, nuclear explosions and
weapons. Chapter 3, Offences against life and human health, includes only the concept of
danger to life or a danger of severe bodily injury or serious illness without mentioning
hazardous substances or CBRN material. The phrase "dangerous nature" is used in many
paragraphs and could include the use of CBRN materials. It all depends on the substance of
the crime. However, Sweden has incorporated CBRN terminology into the Act on Criminal
Responsibility for Terrorist Offences and, in part, into the Environmental Code, which also
includes the terms hazardous waste.
The criminal code deals with CBRN materials only very briefly. The terms chemical and
biological materials together with others such as poison, poisoned weapon, including
poisonous or asphyxiating gases, substances and liquids occur in Chapter XXII related to war
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
crimes, Article 264h - Use of prohibited weapons. Radioactive and nuclear material are an
integral part of (the article) Felonies constituting a public danger.
Tajikistan, as well as the other Central Asian countries mentioned above, have thoroughly
included CBRN terminology in the individual articles of the criminal law. In Chapter 21 -
Crimes again public security, CBRN but also hazardous material is mentioned in addition to
Articles 194 (4), 195, 198, 199 and Article 194 (5) - Unlawful use or dumping from a ship or
stationary platforms located on the continental shelf, explosives, biological, chemical or
nuclear weapons, dangerous and noxious substances.”
CBRN materials are also mentioned in environmental crimes. Compared to most criminal
laws, this is unique, as others are dominated by the terms hazardous material and waste.
Chapter 24 - Crimes against ecological security and the natural environment, includes a
reference to CBRN in Articles 221, 223, 228. Article 228 allows us to quote: “1) Poisoning
or contamination of the land with harmful products of economic or other activities due to the
violation of the rules for handling pesticides, fertilizers, plant growth stimulants or other
hazardous chemical or biological substances during their storage, use, transportation, as
well as other damage to the land, resulting in harm to human health or significant harm to
the environment."
Equally important is Chapter 27 - Crimes in the sphere of economic activities, which includes
the crime of smuggling - (Article) 289 with CBRN terminology.
Chapter 34 - Crimes against peace and security of humanity contains other important articles
aimed at combating CBRN threats. For example, Article 397 - Illicit traffic and financing of
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, or Articles 399 - Act of Biocide and 400 - Act
of Ecocide, also contain CBRN terms including poisoning, climatic or other weapons of mass
One of the weapons’ definition in the penal code contains the mention of CBRN material: "A
nuclear, radioactive, chemical or biological substance which has burning, corrosive, harmful,
suffocating or toxic properties, or is capable of causing permanent illness." We can find the
CBRN material in the whole penal code in connection to crimes against persons (Article 82 -
Intentional killing using chemical, biological and nuclear material), Offences against property
using exposure to radiation and CBN materials (Article 152 - Qualified damage to property),
offences against the public - intentionally endangering public safety (Article 174 - Possession
of hazardous substances). The law also contains sections on environmental crime which
addresses the environmental pollution and the spread of incurable animal and plant diseases.
The Ukrainian Criminal Code deals with CBRN materials in some articles in Chapter IX -
Crimes against public safety. This applies in particular to an attack using these materials,
illegal possession, storage, transport, etc. radioactive and nuclear materials and illicit
manufacturing, nuclear explosive devices, or device dispersing radioactive material, or
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
radiation emitting and violation of radiation safety rules and hazardous waste management
rules. Interesting is Article 237 - Failure to eliminate consequences of environmental
pollution, in the frame of crimes against the environment, where there is a reference to
hazardous substances, as well as in other articles of the same chapter.
United Kingdom
In the UK, there are several acts regulating the control of hazardous materials (HazMat) and
dealing with environmental protection. The legislation regulates the import/export,
sale/purchase, transport, storage, use, management and disposal of HazMat. Therefore, the
use of terminology related to hazardous and dangerous substances is mainly connected to all
environmental acts.
The responsibility for investigating, enforcing and prosecuting offences that breach HazMat
and environmental regulations belong to a variety of non-police law enforcement agencies.
For example, the Environment Agency is primarily responsible for the protection of land,
water, air and wildlife from pollution by HazMat; the Health and Safety Executive is focused
on maintaining standards in all UK workplaces to protect workers from death, injury and ill-
health; HM Customs and Excise and Border Force are responsible for the licensing,
monitoring and inspecting of imports/exports of HazMat.
For HazMat cases, UK Police Forces may provide a support role to assist such agencies with
their investigations such as a death occurring in a workplace, which may be a case of
'corporate manslaughter' due to an employer's negligence, or where an organised crime group
may be involved in the illegal storage or disposal of HazMat.
In contrast to HazMat, the term CBRN has a very specific meaning and is almost exclusively
used among UK law enforcement agencies to refer to the use of such materials for a terrorist
purpose (e.g. Terrorism Act, 2006 - Offences involving radioactive devices and materials and
nuclear facilities and sites, Paragraphs 9 12, or Serious Crime Act 2007 - SCHEDULE 1,
Serious offences - Prohibited weapons, Paragraph 3 and 16C - firearms offences). UK
legislation transfers the primary responsibility for the response and investigation of CBRN
offences to the local Police Force due to their definition and crime status as terrorist offences.
For example, the UK Fire and Rescue Services have primary responsibility for responding to
and managing spillages of HazMat at an industrial site or on a road. In a case where the event
was suspected or known to be a terrorist incident, the local Police Force would be the legal
entity with the primary responsibility for securing, protecting and managing the 'crime scene’,
and the local Fire and Rescue Service would provide a supporting role with their capabilities.
United States
US criminal law deals with destructive substances - Paragraph 31. They are explained as "an
explosive substance, flammable material, infernal machine, or other chemical, mechanical, or
radioactive device or matter of a combustible, contaminative, corrosive, or explosive nature."
CBRN substances are widely mentioned in many sections related to terrorism, crimes against
the transport of CBRN and hazardous materials, or public transport. Hazardous and injurious
devices are mentioned in the law in connection with crimes against the environment and soil.
There is also a special Chapter 39 related to explosives and other dangerous articles. In this
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
context, several LEAs, including the Environmental Protection Agency, are competent in the
US to deal with crimes using CBRN / hazardous material.
As another US example, California criminal law also mentions hazardous materials in
connection with intentional conduct. This is Article 4.6. The Hertzberg-Alarcon California
Prevention of Terrorism Act [11415 - 11419] (Article 4.6 added by Stats. 1999, Chapter 563,
Section 1. 11417: “The intentional release of a dangerous chemical or hazardous material
generally utilized in an industrial or commercial process shall be considered use of a weapon
of mass destruction when a person knowingly utilizes those agents with the intent to cause
harm and the use places persons or animals at risk of serious injury, illness, or death, or
endangers the environment" (72).
Uzbekistan's criminal law is in some respects similar to the laws of neighbouring Central
Asian countries and deals with CBRN materials, and also uses the terms poisonous, toxic, etc.
under Chapter 17 - Crimes against public security, and partly in Chapter 14 - Crimes related
to environment protection and conservancy, and Chapter 23 - Crimes against the procedure of
keeping or use of military property.
Thanks to our practice at the international level, we can conclude that the incorporation of
definitions and crimes with CBRN and hazardous materials into the criminal laws of
individual countries was influenced by specific experiences of cases occurring in a given
country. However, the exchange of information between security and judicial authorities at
the international level also helped. The different countries inspired each other.
We believe that the sharing of such information is very important for rapid and effective
criminal proceedings in the event that any of these crimes occurs for the first timenot just
once but also repeatedlyin any given country. A study of the laws shows that there are
several international streams of legislation that could be studied regionally. These are
English-speaking nations’, ‘German-speaking nations’, ‘Southern European nations with
Latin origins, and ‘Central / Eastern European nations. Several Asian and African countries
have evidently been influenced by some of these directions.
In the interests of sharing good practice and cooperation at the international level, we believe
it is important to unify the terminology and talk about CBRN-E crimes, despite the fact that in
some cases criminal law uses different terms for the HazMat category. However, as
mentioned above, HazMat materials are, in our view, ultimately CBRN-E materials when it
comes to incidents caused by humans intentionally or through negligence, and non-
compliance with relevant standards with a serious impact on health and the environment.
As for our analysis ‘conclusions, we dare to state that unless specific categories of CBRN-E
crimes are created in individual criminal laws, their separate registration only for statistical
purposes within the existing categories could significantly contribute to monitoring this type
of crime and the subsequent adoption of preventive measures. Based on our experience,
previous studies, different criminal / penal / counter-terrorism / environmental codes reviews,
and the EP and Council Directive 2008/99 / from 19 November 2008, we suggest dividing
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
CBRN-E crimes into four main categories. As we have already mentioned, the proposed
crimes are based on cases already recorded in the history of individual countries, with
criminal and similar laws, or on the assumptions of potential future crimes.
(NOTE: Criminal liability for attempts in a criminal act which was not completed is described
separately in all studied criminal codes and can be connected to all defined offences. However,
in one case we included the assassination attempt, murder, etc., in our table because of known
CBRN-E Crime categorisation
1. Directly affecting humans risk or harm to human life or health
1.1.Assassination, murder, killing by negligence (intentional/unintentional) using CBRN-E
material, e.g.: assassination/poisoning of Markov with Ricin in 1969 (UK), Yushchenko
with Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin in 2004 (Ukraine), Litvinenko with Polonium 210 in
2006 (UK), Kim Jong with VX in 2017 (Kuala Lumpur airport)
1.2.Attempted assassination, murder, killing by using CBRN-E material, e.g.: attempt to
assassinate Kalashnikov with mercury in 2010, Scripal with Novichok in 2018 (UK)
1.3.Injury, serious damage or damage to health using CBRN-E material
(intentional/unintentional), e.g.: often acid and corrosive substance assaults in many
countries (73)
1.4.Spread of contagious human diseases or threat of human immunodeficiency virus, e.g.:
many worldwide cases of deliberate transmission of the HIV virus
1.5.Illegal experiments on humans using CBRN material
1.6.Introducing chemical agents into the body of another person to commit a crime on this
person or to push the person to commit a crime
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
2. Affecting the environment risk or harm to habitats, land, forest, water, air, animals
and plant life
2.1. Environmental damage (illegal spillage, release and placement of CBRN material into
environment land, water, air, forest, during road construction)
2.2. Damage to plants, trees, bushes and animals using CBRN materials
2.3. Illegal extraction of fish resources, other aquatic animals or plants using explosive or
chemical substances
2.4. Illegal dumping of hazardous CBRN-E waste
2.5. The criminal offence of arson in connection with CBRN-E materials and hazardous
2.6. The criminal offence of flooding a hazardous material storage facility or warehouse
2.7. The spread of contagious animal or plant diseases (agricultural biological crime)
2.8. Causing the escape of genetically modified organisms from enclosed spaces
2.9. The criminal offence of food poisoning or negligence in food safety
2.10. Data concealment or intentional disclosure of inauthentic data regarding
environmental pollution or spread of disease
2.11. Failure to eliminate consequences of environmental pollution
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
3. Potentially directly or indirectly affecting human health, life and property
3.1. General threat to the public using CBRN-E material for an offence (e.g., putting the
unshielded sealed radiation source to the public place or release of chemical substance
to the public place, preparing an explosion of a CBRN device, etc.)
3.2. Attack/threat on/to a public authority using CBRN-E material
3.3. Faulty construction of a nuclear facility or other facility using or producing dangerous
CBR materials
3.4. Offence of damaging property or equipment by the use or release of CBRN-E material
(e.g.: using chemical corrosive substance to destroy the server room equipment)
3.5. Illegal trafficking of hazardous CBRN-E waste
3.6. Illegal buying, selling, trafficking, production, loading, storage, or transporting of
CBRN-E material (including chemical precursors for explosives, narcotic drugs, and
psychotropic substances)
3.7. Development of CBRN weapons (any illegal activity consisting of research or study of
a scientific or technical nature aimed at the creation of a CBRN weapon)
3.8. Illegal offering to sell CBRN-E material (directly/indirectly, e.g. via the Internet)
3.9. Theft or larceny of CBRN-E material from storage, training, production, testing, user or
other facilities
3.10. Hijacking vehicles transporting CBRN-E material
3.11. The offence of negligence in the performance of tasks related to the transport, storage
and production of hazardous CBRN-E materials
3.12. Illicit trafficking in ozone-depleting substances
3.13. The offence of intentionally damaging equipment/systems in an operation using,
processing, storing, producing or transporting CBRN-E materials (this may also
include cyber-crime, so-called CBRN-E cyber-crime where cyber-attacks are used to
disrupt the IT system of any facility using or producing CBRN material)
3.14. The deliberate breach of safety regulation in premises dealing with CBRN-E materials
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
3.15. The offence of ransomware cyber-attacks forcing the targeted person working in
premises and facilities using CBRN material to release the CBRN substances into the
public by threatening the disclosure of sensitive information from collected data about
the person or stealing money from his accounts
3.16. Failure to report a serious offence where CBRN/hazardous substances were used
3.17. Misleading consumers providing misleading information related to food products
where hazardous substances were used
3.18. Dissemination of a false alarm message in connection to the use of CBRN-E material
4. Risk or harm to communities and state system using CBRN-E terrorism
Any of the offences from the previous three categories could be considered as crime against
community, nation and the state system if they are committed with intention to harm
community, nation and state system.
In this category, we are proposing the seven main following sub-categories:
4.1. Using CBRN-E substances during an insurrectionary movement or public events with
a mass gathering
4.2. The offence of the use of genetic engineering for the production of bio weapons
4.3. The offence of instructing another person or allowing himself to be instructed in the
manufacture of or in the handling of dangerous materials, like explosive devices,
nuclear fuel, radioactive devices, poisonous substances, biological agents, or other
substances harmful to health
4.4. The offence of inducing or encouraging another person to commit any act where CBRN
materials are used against the community, nation, or state system
4.5. The offence of the menace to use CBRN material against persons or community, or
spreading false information about a CBRN threat
4.6. War crimes - the killing or wounding of people, or torturing them, or in violation of
their interests, maiming them or subjecting them to a biological, medical or scientific
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
experiment using CBRN agents, or in another manner causing them considerable
suffering, causing serious injury or seriously harming their health using CBRN agents
in a time of war
4.7. Acts of terrorism - a terrorist plot or attack involving CBRN-E substances
- Lone wolf or terrorist group attacks by different means:
- The release, dissemination or dispersion of CBRN material towards a target in the form
of gas, liquid or solid (RDD, CDD, BDD without explosives) - aerosols can be both small
droplets of liquid or powder form when solids are used. It may be combined with
explosives e.g.: RDD (dirty bomb), CDD, BDD using explosives or using different
dispersion techniques like spilling the liquid, spraying aerosol, air conditioning… or
using specific dispersion devices including UAV, UUV/AUV, AGV…)
- Contamination of surfaces or items (banknotes, etc.)
- Contamination of food or drinks
- Placing fully or partially unshielded sealed radioactive sources to target a place with
the intention of irradiating people (RED Radiological Exposure Device)
- Spreading of contagious human diseases (directly or indirectly via vectors, etc.)
- Attacking vehicles during the transport of CBRN substances
- Attacking or sabotaging storage, production or critical infrastructure facilities with the
presence of CBRN material (e.g., a nuclear power plant) and use of NID or NED
- Agroterrorism animal of plant pathogens could be harmfully used in the agriculture
sector with serious consequences for the destruction of foodstuffs or the interruption of
the food supply, including psychological effects. A number of different possible plant or
animal pathogens could cause harm or loss of production, and even an act of
agroterrorism that did not result in the destruction of foodstuffs or interruptions in the
food supply, could have a psychological impact. (74)
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
2. Motivation, Motives, intent and the offender´s goal in CBRN-E crime
We can discover a number of different theories about the motives and influences on criminal
behavior in professional literature. Many of them present the personal internal motives of the
perpetrators and the external conditions affecting the individual. We know from the past, for
example, the psychobiological theory of the 19th century represented by Lombros, which
introduced the existence of more primitive forms of individuals with a genetic predisposition
to violence. This theory was later developed by Morel at the end of the 19th and the beginning
of the 20th century (75).
Sociological theories addressed the influence of peers on the formation of criminal behavior
(76). Based on other studies, Sutherland argued that criminal behavior is learned from close
intimate groups and is not conditioned by heredity (77). Several authors such as Buehler,
Farrington DP, Jolliffe D, Loeber R, Stouthamer-Loeber M, Kalb LM, point out that an
individual may also be led to criminal behavior by a problematic family environment (hostile
conflict patterns) and mutual relationship structures (78). Several studies, such as the
International Islamic University in Islamabad, have also pointed to the influence of peer
groups in connection with the motive of revolt against state institutions and courts, where the
existing system allowed, and, in many cases, inspired crime (79). In this context, we can talk
about the impact of poverty in backward countries with a dictatorial regime, or, conversely,
the impact of corruption in more developed countries, where it is common practice to
participate in the corruptive system. In the above-mentioned study, most respondents-
prisonersstated that the primary motive for committing crime was to become rich quickly
and easily.
The classical model of experimental psychology was based on the theory that human beings
learn on the basis of their own experience from the environment in which they move, whether
it is positive or negative, and this in turn influences their behavior (80).
The prevalence of CBRN-E crime in a particular community, city, region, or country is
influenced by several factors. These are mainly opportunities to commit a CBRN-E crime,
offender capabilities and knowledge, existing vulnerability of targeted places, persons and / or
environment, individual or criminal group goals, motives and rationalization for committing
That is, if, for example, the perpetrator S.K. in the Slovak case "Radioactive Letters -
Americium 241" had the opportunity to obtain Americium 241 and send it by post to the
courts, police and the Ministry of Justice of the Slovak Republic, at the same time necessarily
needed some ability and knowledge of how to obtain it, weaponise it, and to be protected
from internal contamination and health side effects. He had to anticipate the vulnerabilities in
the relevant state authority in relation to receiving and opening mail. He also had to set a goal
based on a motive and rationalize that such a form of attack would be adequate for the
perceived alleged injustice he had suffered based on his statements. As in many other cases,
the implied motive for revenge was influenced by several factors.
Therefore, in general, we must assign to the perpetrators' motives both motivation and intent,
respective to the perpetrator's goal, and talk about various related factors. Information on
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
motivation, motive of the committed crime, and the intent can help in pairing crimes and their
linkage (case linkage), comparing several cases and assist in the possible prediction of future
behavior of perpetrators in similar crimes.
Motivation in this context can be understood as the perpetrator's permanent orientation
towards certain values or opinions in his individual situation (81). By individual situation we
can understand a number of influencing individual and situational factors, such as family,
work and social background, financial and mental problems, criminal history, etc.
Brandt (82) states that in the sense of the psychological theory of motivation, a person acts at a
certain moment on the basis of a concurrence of five variables. These are: beliefs, which can
also reside in the subconscious. It is a belief in the views available to the offender. Then there
are the beliefs related to the situation in which he finds himself. The third variable is the belief
in the consequences of adopting one of the solutions available to it and its strength. The fourth
is the vividness of his representation in a certain time interval, and the last are the desires and
antipathy towards the consequences.
Turvey (83) developed a theory of Contributing motivational factors, using the table
Proximate Cause Factors Relevant to the Study of Homicidal Behavior by Yarvis (84).
Contributing motivational factors are, according to Turvey, conditions that may influence the
perpetrator's behavior, although they may not necessarily be among the primary aspects
initiating the acts themselves. Proof of the existence of these factors is possible only through
thorough and professional investigation and analysis of the crime scene.
From Turvey's factors, we selected some relevant for CBRN-E crimes and supplemented
them based on our experience and examination of 24 CBRN-E cases with others we consider
important for CBRN-E crime (83):
- Mental illness and physical disabilities
- Psychotropic substances and alcohol use
- Pathological gambling
- Significant stress
- Fear
- Financial problems
- Submissive tendencies
- Low self-esteem
- Self-preservation
- Zeal / bias
- Belonging to a radical group and its pressure to achieve goals
- Long-term pressure caused by previous criminal history
- The existing corruption system of the state
- Social or group pressure to achieve research success (in the laboratory)
- Social group pressure to achieve higher earnings and social identity
- Long-term resistance to certain groups and minorities
- Opposition to the state and the system
- Persistent feeling of injustice
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
At the same time, however, it should be noted that the offender's motivation to act in a certain
way in the long term may change over time (83). This change may be related to a number of
variables that result from the personal life, experience and development of the offender’s
mental and physical health.
The motive of the perpetrator responds as a certain impulse for crime, in order for the
execution of an act to achieve a psychological or material goal based on that motive. It is
important to mention that the criminal laws of many countries refer to crimes with a specific
motive. These are mostly related to the participation in actions of a very serious anti-social
nature, extremist and radical groups, including terrorist organizations. However, proving a
specific motive in court proceedings is often very difficult.
Among the main motives of a terrorist group for committing a terrorist attack are religious,
ideological and political motives, such as the holy war declared by Osama bin Laden against
the United States. Motives for participation in terrorist activities by individuals have been
explored by several authors. As Borum points out, one of the very significant motives for
participating in terrorism is the desire for revenge (85). In this context, we can talk about
revenge against the world, society and the state, where motivation comes from a sense of
injustice. Martha Crenshaw proposes four categories of motivation for individuals to engage
in terrorist activities. The first is the opportunity to perform an act. The second is the need to
be part of something. The third is the desire to obtain the needed social status, and the last is
the acquisition of material remuneration (86).
Smith conducted a study examining two main motives related to terrorist behavior, where the
main motive is affiliation or the acquisition of power (87). From the history of many criminal
cases of gangs and criminal groups, it is known that belonging to this group is achieved by
committing a crime, and so it is in the case of trying to gain power and control others.
Knowing the motive in criminal proceedings is an advantage, but not a necessity. Plus, it's not
easy to prove it directly. It depends on many variables. The clarified motive can significantly
help the decision of the tribunal, but in no case can it replace criminal intent. Only a thorough
investigation, which includes an analysis of the crime scene, the victim and his life, and the
perpetrator's known behavior, can help to clarify the motive (83). Freeman and Turvey further
(83, p. 312) characterize a motive as a need with a material, psychological and emotional
background that leads a person to a certain behavior or is satisfied with behavior. Sometimes
a motive that directly leads the perpetrator to criminal proceedings is revealed immediately,
but it is more difficult to identify the background of the motivation in the long run. The
motive clearly generates an intention to commit a crime.
Intent can be understood as a specific desired output from a targeted activity or several
consecutive activities (83). The criminal laws of each country specify exactly how the motive
is assessed in criminal proceedings.
So, if the intent is part of every intentional crime, then the motive allows us to explain why
the perpetrator committed the crime. This is an important examination of the answer to one of
the many questions in a criminal investigation: who, to whom, where, when, how, by what,
for what purpose and WHY? Proving the perpetrator's intent through material evidence,
witness statements and forensic assessments automatically enables prosecution as an
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
intentional crime. If the intent has not been proven, it may be an accident or an unintentional
crime committed through negligence.
As mentioned above, it is not necessary to prove the motive of the perpetrator in criminal
proceedings. However, in court proceedings, prosecutors often present a motive to convince
the jury, and forensic experts from the field of psychology and psychiatry or criminal
profiling, depending on the country, are summoned for this purpose. As Hessick (88) points
out, the Criminal Court may ultimately decide, by a proven motive, to tighten or refine the
sentence. The following arguments can be used in the decision: "because he was acting with
good motives, or a rather high sentence because of his bad motives" (89).
As Leonard (90) points out, a person who decides to act in a certain way under the influence of
a specific motive draws up a plan to achieve the objective. When the act is completed, the
investigators can deduct from the knowledge of this motive that it was the intention to achieve
the set goal influenced by the motive. On the contrary, secured and documented evidence that
the perpetrator acted in accordance with a pre-prepared plan and strategy can lead us to the
motive that served to create the plan. It can also move us to the intent the perpetrator followed
when committing the crime.
In the following section, we present a few examples of CBRN-E crimes and the identified
intent, motivations and motives of the perpetrators.
This was the case of a planned use of the dangerous substances dimethylmercury and abrin by
an offender from the Czech Republic with a probable motive of revenge (91).
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
Figures 10, 11, and 12: Czech police
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
In 2017, the perpetrator M.H. tried to get dimethylmercury via darknet, which he failed to do.
Between February and March 2018, he again virtually moved to the Dream Marketplace
server within the darknet in order to obtain a small amount of C4 plastic explosive. He
discussed with the potential seller the price and method of transport to the European Union.
He then sent the seller the value of $330 via Bitcoins. However, the seller announced that he
could not send M.H. the explosive for certain reasons. M.H. then investigated whether it was
possible to send another type of explosive, such as "emulex". Subsequently, he also
investigated the possibility of purchasing the highly toxic biological toxin abrin.
During the trial, the court examined the content of M.H 's communication, and sought to
identify the purpose and goal of the use of these substances. It was not possible to sufficiently
determine the true purpose of the use of all substances from the evidence obtained. As far as
dimethylmercury was concerned, M.H. in communication with the seller on the darknet,
stated that he needed it for laboratory purposes. The seller then set the price at $120 per 100
grams. In connection with the acquisition of abrin, M.H. told the seller that he needed it for
research purposes and not for murder or poisoning. In a later communication, he told the
seller that he needed it as a birthday present for his brother, who is a chemist. The price for
abrin was eventually set at $500 per 200 milligrams, with the seller warning that the amount
could cause the death of 40 adult men. As a result, a quantity of 100 grams of
dimethylmercury was ordered, which, according to the opinion of the relevant forensic
institute, could kill 750 people and an order of abrin in a volume of 200 mg was made as well.
Thanks to the successful police operation of the security forces of the Czech Republic in
cooperation with foreign forces, the perpetrator was detained and several ampoules with the
inscription dimethylmercury and abrin were seized. These were hidden in a toy and in a clock
as part of the packages M.H. received. Based on a laboratory examination, it was found that
the substances in question were not present in the ampoules, i.e. the seller had sent counterfeit
substances. Further information on this part of the case is contained only in the non-public
version of this article (classified) available only for law enforcement agencies.
In examining the motive and intention of the court, several pieces of evidence and modus
operandi, (i.e. individual procedures for procuring highly dangerous substances), were
considered. Finding out the motive and intent was very important for determining the legal
qualification of the criminal proceedings. Unfortunately, the motive was not identified during
the proceedings, although it could be assumed that it was either revenge or making a financial
According to convict M.H., he had wanted to use the ordered substances for suicide, which,
however, precludes the examination of the evidence and the very fact that the effect of
dimethylmercury on the organism is not immediate. After its administration, it would have a
torturous and painful effect over a long period of time. The court considered that the
perpetrator would not have used the substance to commit suicide, which after application
would have irreversible effects with a gradual destructive and certainly not immediate effect.
The refutation of the motive for suicide was also confirmed by other researched connections
and behavioural evidence.
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
The court also refuted another hypothesis of the motive, namely the use of substances for
scientific and research purposes, as the perpetrator had claimed in the communication on the
darknet. His education and expertise did not confirm such a hypothesis.
The expert opinion of the psychologist also clearly ruled out that it could be motivated by a
psychotic illness. However, M.H. was diagnosed with a severe mental illness, paranoid
schizophrenia. He was also diagnosed with an impulsive disorder called pathological
gambling, as well as harmful cannabinol use. As further stated in the expert opinion from the
field of health care, the field of psychiatry and clinical psychology, despite the mentioned
diseases, the perpetrator was able to recognize the danger of his actions. At the critical time,
in the psychiatrist's expert opinion, he did not suffer from a de facto mental illness because he
was in remission and was fully aware of his actions. On the other hand, it has been
demonstrated that M.H. committed the crime under the influence of a mental disorder, which
caused his negativistic and aggressive attitudes and had a decisive influence on the crime.
In its further investigation, the court did not agree with the prosecution’s conviction as to the
motive for proceeding in order to obtain a profit from the sale of dangerous substances or
from extortion under the threat of the use of these substances. The prosecutor based this
hypothesis on the allegations of a witness who stated that the perpetrator had mentioned to
him substances on which he would either earn a large sum or end up in prison. The prosecutor
also based this hypothesis on other findings. These were related to pathological gambling and
financial debts. The court ruling also states that the perpetrator intended to kidnap an
acquaintance and subsequently blackmail his parents and demand a ransom.
In the decision, the court states that the perpetrator knew exactly what type of substances he
was looking for on the darknet because he had studied the relevant information about them,
which resulted from communication with a potential supplier. The court also stated in the
decision that, based on the long-lasting chaotic communication via the darknet, the perpetrator
did not intend to trade in substances and make a profit, but rather to use the toxic properties of
these substances for dangerous conduct.
The court therefore considered a possible motive that would lead to the intention of using
toxic substances to kill people. The content of the false communication with the supplier
concerning the use of the substances in a non-existent laboratory suggests such a motive. The
message sent to the supplier from the darknet also suggests that he needed the amount of abrin
required for a person with a height of 185 cm and a weight of 90 kg. Another element
confirming the potential motive of revenge we can see in the court decision is the fact that he
prepared the supply of toxic substances exactly before the date of the trial against the offender
in the previous criminal case, in which he was also charged. In the end, the court did not
confirm the motive of revenge with the intention of causing the death of other persons,
because the hypotheses were not confirmed by specific findings and evidence, although they
could be logically explained. As the motive of revenge and intent were on the verge of
speculation, they could not be used in the legal classification of criminal conduct, but
nevertheless, according to the court, they showed a certain degree of probability.
If these materials had been found on the offender during the trial, not only the intention but
also the motive could have been confirmed. The perpetrator was apprehended and at the same
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
time a search of the house was carried out where false toxic substances were discovered, and
it was obvious that he was handling them.
M.H. was convicted under § 21 par. 1 - § 284 of the Criminal Code for the attempted crime of
possession of narcotics, psychotropic substances, and poisons, and according to § 21 par. 1 - §
272 par. 1 for the attempted crime of public menace. As no intention or motive could be
proven, the perpetrator could not be convicted of other crimes, such as attempted murder or
even terrorism.
As we can see in this case, the perpetrator's most likely motive may have been revenge for the
prosecution. His probable intent may have been to cause personal injury or to kill the
members of the judicial panel in order to obtain psychological satisfaction; satisfaction based
on the motive of revenge.
Another case mentioned above, "Radioactive Letter - Americium 241 (92), which took place
in 2016 in Slovakia, had similar features in terms of motivation and motive as the case of
"Mercury" from the Czech Republic.
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
Figures 13, 14 and 15: Slovak police
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
The perpetrator S.K., who had been convicted in the past of extortion, injury and restriction of
personal liberty, had sent several letters to various public administration institutions. The first
three were sent to the two regional courts, and the Ministry of Justice actually confirmed the
presence of a certain amount of Americium 241 coming from fire detectors, which was
confirmed by the appropriate forensics’ laboratory. Neither gamma nor alpha rays were
detected inside the bag at the crime scene when placing an alpha-probe within the field-
handled detection equipment. The presence of radionuclides was confirmed later on only
under laboratory conditions.
The forensics expert further specified that the radioactive material had been removed from the
detectors by a method of intentional disassembly and adapted for use, i.e., it was not a
question of removing the material from the damaged fire detector. These detectors came from
the workplace where the perpetrator had been working. In the letters sent to the two district
courts, Americium 241 was stored in plastic bags, and, in a letter addressed to the Ministry of
Justice of the Slovak Republic, kept directly in an envelope without being placed in a bag. In
addition, the perpetrator had sent letters of threat (dissemination of an alarm message) to
another district court and the regional police directorate, but without the radionuclide. Dozens
of people were potentially endangered, but their health and lives could only be endangered by
internal ingestion, contamination, or direct contact through open external skin injuries.
Fortunately, no such event occurred and all persons potentially endangered were not
contaminated with this hazardous material. Several pieces of evidence seized during a home
search of the offender S.K. (gloves, contents of electronic devices, etc.), as well as forensics
opinions, clearly showed that the perpetrator S.K. had committed this act.
A specialized criminal court convicted the offender S.K. for the crime of terrorism and certain
forms of participation in terrorism according to § 419 par. 1 letter a), par. 3 letter b) of the
Criminal Code of the Slovak Republic. The court´s decision states, that the intention was to
intimidate police and judicial staff, seeking to destabilize the legal system through serious
harm and deaths of the recipients of the letters, and the persons who were to be in contact
with the letters. The court of first instance also convicted the perpetrator of a criminal offence
under § 298 para. 1, par. 2 letter a), letter b) of the Criminal Code for the act of illicit
production and possession of nuclear, radioactive substances, high-risk chemicals and high-
risk biological agents and toxins.
Following a subsequent appeal by the offender´s defence team, the Supreme Court of the
Slovak Republic reclassified the crime. Although the act was unequivocally upheld by the
Supreme Court on the basis of a range of secured and established evidence, the intention to
commit a crime such as terrorism and the crime of producing radioactive substances was not
acknowledged after a thorough examination of the evidence. The Supreme Court therefore
finally convicted S.K. of the continuation of a particularly serious crime of general danger
because he "intentionally put people at risk of death or serious injury by causing harmful
radioactive effects" at the trial stage, as well as for the continuing offence of assault on a
public authority in a single action with the dissemination of a false alarm.
Returning to the perpetrator, according to the conclusions of expert psychiatrists and
psychologists, S.K. suffered from a mental disorder (dissociative amnesia and motor disorder)
within the so-called “prison psychosis”, which he was diagnosed with only after the crime had
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
been committed. According to the experts at the time of the crime, he did not suffer from any
mental disorder that could significantly affect his control and cognitive abilities. Furthermore,
memory disintegration was found in the perpetrator and abnormal personality structure and
criminal history were stated as possible motivating factors. Experts also identified revenge
against public authorities without any pathological condition as the most probable motive.
The judgment of the Supreme Court is valid, but an appeal has been lodged against it. At the
time of this writing, we do not yet know the final result.
In many countries around the world, we often encounter attacks on the streets, near homes or
in shopping malls using corrosive chemicals, which, in terms of our categorization, classifies
them as crimes against health and life, where the intention is to harm another's health or take
someone’s life. In certain cases, depending on the motivation, such acts are included in the
category of property crimes. These are many cases of robberies where chemicals are used as a
threatening weapon and the intention is to commit theft.
Figure 16: ISEM Institute
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
According to a University of Leicester study (93), the most commonly used substances in
attacks (35%) were household chemicals such as bleach, followed by ammonia (32%), and
then corrosive substances (acids / alkalis - 15%). Ammonia was used in up to 51% of thefts.
Interestingly, up to 52% of victims of corrosive crimes were strangers, 13% acquaintances
and friends, 12% partners or ex-partners and 6% criminal rivals. The results of the research
also show that the use of these substances in attacks is explained by the perpetrators for six
main reasons. First, there is a low risk of carrying this weapon compared to a knife, if caught
by the police. Another argument was the easy availability in stores or on the Internet, and the
low price. The fourth argument was to easily disguise the carrying of corrosive substances so
that no one would recognize them. The fifth reason was carrying the substance in case of need
as protection against attacks by others. The last argument of the respondents spoke about the
need to wear corrosive substances in order to increase the reputation in social groups and gain
Offenders as responders in this study pointed out several aspects of the benefits of using
corrosive chemicals. These were:
1. Physical harm (control) (not clear why this is here in conjunction with “harm”) during the
2. Adaptability for any type of attack
3. Surprise, silence, and speed of the weapon (an unexpected rapid release of the substance)
4. Instant incapacitation of victims
5. Keeping a physical distance between the offender and the victim
6. A quick conclusion of the crime
In this context, however, it should be added that out of the 648 cases of corrosive attacks
examined, up to 54% also used other forms of violence, such as stabbing, blunt striking,
kicking and hitting.
The main motives of the perpetrators in the above research were revenge and punishment.
However, from the respondents' answers, it is very difficult to clearly confirm the intention to
cause serious or permanent injury. Furthermore, it was a motive for financial gain in a
specially planned attack with the use of the chemical either as a threat, or even as a direct
attack, during the robbery. Other motives included fear of attack, so they used the substances
preventively as kind of protection. The last group of motives was the pressure of the peer
group to meet its expectations.
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
A chemical attack with mustard gas at the departure terminal of Tbilisi Shota Rustaveli
International Airport occurred in July 2018.
Figures 17 and 18: Ministry of Interior Georgian Police
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
People present at the ticket desk of Aeroflot Airlines detected an unpleasant smell reminding
them of garlic, and they suddenly started to feel sick, having symptoms such as lachrymation,
increased nasal secretion and sneezing, sore throat, coughing, hoarseness, and dyspnoea. In
addition, the police officers working in the airport and providing first response developed
blisters on their skin.
Figure 19: Ministry of Interior Georgian Police
The case was immediately dealt with by State Security Service (SSG), suspecting that it may
be an attack using an unknown dangerous substance. The SSG investigator immediately
contacted the Emergency Management Service (EMS) and Forensic-Criminalistic Department
(FCD). After consultations with the EMS and the FCD, it was decided to evacuate people
from the area of the departure terminal. At the same time, HazMat and CBRN CSI teams were
sent to the airport. The EMS HazMat team performed the first site inspection, with threat
recognition in the appropriate A-level protective clothing. They found traces of suspicious
liquid at the ticket counter, and a quick on-site test revealed the reaction as a dangerous
chemical agent. Afterwards, the CBRN CSI team provided the crime scene reconnaissance,
documentation and collection of evidence under CBRN conditions. Samples were sealed and
sent to the forensics laboratory for further analyses.
Figures 20 and 21: Ministry of Interior Georgian Police
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
Due to the specificity of the case and the potential threat coming from the samples taken, the
preparation of the samples was maintained under special conditions, out of the regular
laboratory procedures following health and safety requirements. The laboratory analysis
showed that the sample from Tbilisi International Airport was high quality mustard gas
The team of investigators collected evidence from victims affected at the airport, analysing
CCTV camera recordings, and identifying potential suspects. CCTV recordings unfortunately
did not provide a clear picture who spilled the liquid at the ticket counter. This behavior and
modus operandi could indicate the skills of perpetrator to act in secrecy.
After several hours of CCTV analysis, one airport visitor drew attention to himself and
therefore the experts were able to make a more detailed behavioral analysis. A suspect
visiting the ticket counter prior to the attack was again detected outside the airport by CCTV
shortly after people started to experience strange symptoms. This time he was dressed in
different clothes.
This behavior may indicate an interest in monitoring and confirmation of the effects and
impacts of a dangerous substance that he had previously applied at the ticket counter and / or
in finding out how the local security forces would react. At the same time, it may tell us about
several probable motives, which, however, should be confirmed by further examination of the
evidence and also the victimology of the affected persons. Based on the above, several
hypotheses come into play, including revenge or hate of specific individuals, which was
confirmed in the official investigation. However, the motive for achieving a political or
ideological goal in the form of testing the modus operandi, the effects of the mustard gas used
in liquid form, and the reactivity of the security forces before a potentially larger attack, may
also be considered.
Finally, the investigation team identified a middle-aged man from abroad, who was taken
under operative surveillance. It appeared this person was renting a small room in Tbilisi,
living in ascetic conditions. A decision was made to detain the suspect and search his place of
residence. During the search, the team of investigators found a high-volume syringe, gloves,
and other belongings which could have been used in the spilling of the chemical agent at the
airport ticket counter.
During the interrogation, the suspect confessed that he spilled yperite on the table of ticket
counter, using a syringe. He also admitted that he left the airport afterwards, changed clothes,
and returned to the airport. According to his confession, the motive of the act was a personal
disagreement with the woman working at the ticket counter, with whom he had been involved
in a relationship for a while.
Further investigation assigned a psychiatric examination of the suspect, after which he was
recognized as mentally ill. As a result, the case was closed, and the intruder was extradited to
his country of origin.
This case is very interesting and raises many questions. On the one hand, there was the use of
high-quality mustard gas in a place with the movement of a large number of people which
could be cross-contaminated. This indicates the intent and potential for endangering several
people, and not only one airline employee, who, according to the detainee, was the target. On
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
the other hand, he was diagnosed with mental illness, and without more details about his
illness and the mental conditions before and during the attack, therefore it is difficult to make
any expert findings. Due to the sensitivity of the case, no more information can be provided,
but the mode of attack indicates that the detainee must have had easy access to mustard gas
(chemical warfare agents) either from an old abandoned military warehouse, a current legal or
illegal laboratory, or from the black market. From the information obtained, it is unlikely that
the perpetrator had insufficient knowledge of the potential effects of the chemical agent.
Rather, it could be assumed that he had perfect control of the causes and effects of mustard
gas and acted with a clear goal. However, due to the lack of physical evidence of a possible
act of terrorism, the perpetrator’s declaration, and the psychiatric confirmation of mental
illness, the Georgian authorities were not able to convict the perpetrator. The investigation
was closed, but many questions still remain unanswered and still need to be clarified.
At the same time, it is necessary to state that the Georgian police carried out exemplary work
in crime scene investigation under CBRN conditions and laboratory testing. Nevertheless, one
positive lesson learnt shows that efficient training and preparation of CBRN-incident
agencies, well established SOPs, and interagency cooperation can avoid or drastically
decrease the number of casualties.
One of the special categories of CBRN-E cases are those without officially identified
individual perpetrators. There are a large number of them worldwide, and although there are
indications as to who might be behind the crime, there is not enough evidence to accuse,
charge and convict them. They are often not even referred to as criminal cases because at first
glance they do not look like that. In any case, they fall into this category because they are
dealt with by the relevant law enforcement authorities as possible offences, whether
intentional or unintentional. Revealing a motive without identifying the perpetrator and
knowing the modus operandi become all the more challenging. In any case, there are certain
elements and evidence obtained on a case-by-case basis, indicating at least in part the possible
motives of the perpetrators. In our opinion, it is necessary to analyse and record these cases as
well, because they can help in the future in case of linkage if similar ones occur and
subsequently, they could help to identify the same perpetrators or to help in identifying
similar offenders ‘profiles.
Radioactive elevator buttons in France
This case in France dates to the year 2008. The French company M. manufacturing elevator
buttons for an important worldwide producer of elevators regularly received the components
for production from India.
In September 2008, the established detection system for radioactive material at Paris Roissy
Airport detected the cobalt-60 ionizing radiation. Company M. was alerted by the relevant
authorities and also by their client from the US, because the delivery was also made to the
US. On the same day, more than 200 company employees were evacuated from the site
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
because of the potential presence of danger at the work place, and due to the investigation
lead by relevant law enforcement and health agencies.
Figures 22 and 23: Gendarmerie Nationale, France
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
All components and final products from the stock were inspected and radioactive activity
measurements at all workstations were made. The Institute for Radiation Protection and
Nuclear Safety (IRSN) carried out an assessment of the dose rates and doses potentially
received by company employees and the public when using the elevators in question. All staff
was subjected to control measures. This operation lasted several days and consequently the
whole company site closed.
The incident was also investigated as a potential CBRN crime and was finally classified at
level 2 on the INES scale. This had never happened before to a company not belonging to the
nuclear sector. The recorded levels of thirty people exposed to radioactive doses ranged from
1 mSv to 3 mSv, approximately compared to the exposure limit set by the regulations which
is 1 mSv/year.
The case had taken on an international dimension, ultimately because it concerned other
countries. Although the buttons were manufactured in France, they were mainly intended for
sale on the international market. All the necessary steps were taken by French authorities and
the company was to inform their partners and international authorities. From 2008 to 2009,
inspections carried out in many European countries revealed a series of contaminated elevator
components in Germany, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy,
Switzerland and Belgium. All were taken out of circulation without damage to the public or
the employees concerned.
The public health division of the specialized interregional jurisdiction (JIRS) of Marseille
started to carry out the investigation because several violations of the public health code were
suspected, among others "the use of materials and waste from nuclear activity for the
manufacture of construction goods" (94). As mentioned, the investigation in this context was
also carried out by the Gendarmerie Nationale. Special Gendarmerie units - National CBRN
cell (C2NRBC), the Criminal Research Institute of the Gendarmerie (IRCGN) and the Central
Office for the Fight Against Environmental and Public Health Attacks (OCLAESP)
performed the crime scene/site inspection and reconnaissance, and conducted further steps in
the investigation.
Cobalt-60 is used in different industrial and medical activities, such as levelling gauges, X-ray
welding, food irradiation as the sterilisation process, and in radiation therapy. It is important
to highlight that it can also come from nuclear reactor operations as a secondary product (95).
We know about many cases worldwide when cobalt 60 contaminated stainless steel during
production and this case marked many entities in several countries, and was one of many
warnings to pay attention to in international regulations dealing with radioactive and nuclear
material waste. People who were in charge of dealing with radioactive waste or contaminated
metal scrap in India could unintentionally cause contamination during the production of the
elevator button components, but also intentionally to avoid national and regulations to save
money, so the main motive in such a crime could be considered as profit or financial gain.
The French Gendarmerie finally succeeded in identifying the responsible company from
abroad, however more information cannot be provided publicly.
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
The lesson learnt highlights the necessity to investigate illegal channels for the export of
dangerous products, including scrap metal, which may contain dangerous radioactive
Sarin case in Czech Republic
This case has a very specific character, but it is not unique, especially in the countries of the
former Soviet Union and in Central and Eastern Europe.
During the reconstruction of an old cottage after its purchase in 2019, its new owner
discovered an aluminium tube with the inscription "Sarin" containing a glass bank (see
pictures from the criminal file below Figures 24 and 25). This type of tube with sarin was
normally part of a tin can that in the past commonly contained several chemical warfare
agents (see illustration picture below Figure 26). The owner then contacted the police who
then immediately seized the material on the spot under the highest security measures. After a
specialized laboratory examination by SUJCHBO (National Institute for Nuclear, Chemical
and Biological Protection), an operational and authentic live sarin agent was confirmed. All
the necessary steps to ensure safety were taken by the relevant authorities due to the nature of
the material.
Figure 24: Czech police
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
Figure 25: Czech police
Figure 26: Czech police
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
A complex search of the cottage was carried out under extreme secure conditions by the
special Czech CBRN police unit within the counter-terrorism department in cooperation with
SUJCHBO. No other ampoules or contamination were detected at the place. At the same time,
the police immediately carried out a record check of warehousing chemicals in the existing
military units, and from a formal point of view, everything was in order. It follows that from
past times in the presence of Soviet troops in Central and Eastern Europe, there may be an
indefinite number of dangerous chemical warfare agents freely circulating in unknown places.
Unfortunately, the non-existent evidence could not confirm nor prove who committed the
crime of the unauthorized handling of such a highly toxic chemical.
These chemicals date back to the Cold War where such types of CWA were used for training
with live agents at the Soviet military bases. The cottage is located near a former military base
and the former owner of the cottage was a member of the chemical battalion.
If we wanted to deduce a motive and intent related to the illicit handling of hazardous
chemicals, or possibly another vague motif, we would have to have a far greater amount of
information and evidence and, of course, a detained suspect. Unfortunately, despite the huge
effort of Czech police force, any other evidence leading to the perpetrator was not found. One
of the many motives, which could be identical to similar cases involving the sale of illegally
obtained CBRN materials in the past, may be that of financial profit. However, other potential
motives related to harming or killing people cannot be ruled out.
Based on the examination of 24 CBRN-E cases, we compiled a table of possible motives and
intents of perpetrators of intentional CBRN-E crimes, which we divided according to the
categorization of crimes from the previous subchapter. It is not an exhaustive list and can be
extended according to experience from various cases and in accordance with national
legislation. It is important to emphasize that the motive can sometimes be the same as the
intent, and their definitions differ according to the legislative routine and legal norms of
individual countries. Although the motives were not proven in many of the cases considered,
they could hypothetically be deduced from investigation files, court decisions, discussions
with fellow investigators and prosecutors, or from open sources available to us. Some cases
are under investigation at the time of writing. We are still investigating these cases and this
chapter will be updated in the future. We also supplemented the table with the results of the
University of Leicester study (93).
Intents and Motives in CBRN-E Crimes
1. CBRN-E crime against human life and health
Intent 1.1: Causing serious injury, infecting others by disease, or intending to kill
Motive 1.1.1 Revenge
Motive 1.1.2 Lessons / Warnings for Others
Motive 1.1.3 Crime concealment
Motive 1.1.4 Power
Motive 1.1.5 Affiliation and social status
Motive 1.1.6 Protecting family members
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
Motive 1.1.7 Coercion
Motive 1.1.8 Mental illnesses, hallucinations, delusions
Motive 1.1.9 Anger / hate / obsession, toward a certain group of society
Motive 1.1.10 Political, religious goals and ideology
Motive 1.1.11 Jealousy
Motive 1.1.12 Thrill / Passion / Pathological desire for CBRN-E crime
Motive 1.1.13 Financial gain
Motive 1.1.14 Empathy (administering lethal dose of CBR material to dying person or person
in terminal illness phase)
Intent: 1.2 Intention to put people at risk of death or serious injury
Same motives as in 1.1.
Intent: 1.3 Intimidation by injury
Motive: 1.3.1 Fear triggering preventive measure as self-defence
Motive: 1.3.2 Financial gain
Other motives as in 1.1.
Intent: 1.4: To become famous or develop an innovative approach in medicine production
or medical treatment despite direct or collateral victims (taking into account damage to
health and death after using the CBRN material)
Motive 1.2.1 Excitement / thrill / passion
Motive 1.2.2 Profit
2. CBRN-E crime against the environment
Intent 2.1: To damage or degrade the environment
Motive 2.1.1 Revenge
Motive 2.1.2 Lessons / Warnings for Others
Motive 2.1.3 Crime concealment
Motive 2.1.4 Power
Motive 2.1.5 Affiliation and social status
Motive 2.1.6 Mental illnesses, hallucinations, delusions.
Motive 2.1.7 Anger / hate / obsession, toward a certain group of society
Motive 2.1.8 Political, religious goals and ideology
Motive 2.1.9 Jealousy
Motive 2.1.10 Thrill / Passion / Pathological desire for CBRN-E crime
Intent 2.2 Bypass laws and regulations on hazardous waste management and / or
environmental protection, resulting in environmental damage due to unauthorized storage
or disposal of hazardous materials
Motive 2.1.2 Financial and other profit (saving the costs of legal waste disposal and
obligatory filtering the discharge and release of pollutants into the air, water and soil)
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
Motive 2.1.3 Financial and other profit in saving road construction costs (use of hazardous
waste instead of construction material)
Intent 2.3 Temporarily or permanently degrade arable land or orchards
Motive 2.3.1 Profit from the cheap purchase of land for the construction of buildings and
Motive 2.3.2 Profit in eliminating agricultural competition
Intent 2.4: To eliminate inconvenient animals or plants occurring in a certain area or to
deteriorate the breeding of live-stock and crops by infecting them with a disease or using
forbidden GMOs
Motive 2.4.1 Aversion to animals and plants in the area
Motive: 2.4.2. Animals interfere with human activity in the area
Motive 2.4.3 Revenge
Motive 2.4.4 Profit in eliminating agricultural competition
Intent 2.5: Simplification of fishing for animals and animals using hazardous materials
Motive 2.5.1: Faster profits from fishing and livestock
Intent 2.6: Intention to spoil food by poisoning
Motive 2.6.1 Profit from saving costs for food preparation and production using spoiled
biological or unauthorized chemical additives
Motive 2.6.2 Profit from the restriction or elimination of competition
Motive 2.6.3 Revenge against a particular business operation
Motive 2.6.4 Crime concealment
Motive 2.6.6 Jealousy
Motive 2.6.7 Warning, lesson
Intent 2.7 Retain or camouflage data on negative environmental effects
Motive 2.7.1 Profit obtained by not paying a fine or not deteriorating the company's rating
3. CBRN-E crime against public safety and security, administration of justice, consumer
rights and property
Intent 3.1 To put people at risk of death or serious injury as a public threat or as a threat to
public authority or breach of safety regulation in premises dealing with CBRN-E materials
(this applies to many crimes listed in the category 3.)
Motives from category 1
Intent 3.2 Procurement of CBRN-E material in exchange for criminal commodities i.e.,
drugs or firearms
Motives: 3.2.1 Profit
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
Intent 3.3 Procurement or development or offering of CBRN-E material for illegal sale
Motives: 3.2.1 Profit
Intent 3.4 Illegal use of CBRN material in illegal production of any products
Motive 3.4.1 Profit from business with produced articles
Intent 3.5 Damaging property or equipment with CBRN-E material
Many motives from category 1 can be applied.
Intent: 3.6 Forcing the targeted person working in premises and facilities using CBRN
material to release the CBRN substances into the public by threatening the disclosure
sensitive information from collected data about the person or stealing the money from his
Many motives from category 1 can fit to this category.
4. CBRN-E crime against community, nation, humanity and state system
Intent 4.1 Intention to put people at risk of death or serious injury
Many motives from category 1 can be applied.
Intent 4.2 Intention to build capacities of persons in the use of CBRN material for
malicious purposes
Many motives from category 1 can be applied.
Intent 4.3 Intention to kill people or / and to cause injuries within a terrorist act or during a
Motive 4.3.1 Desire to defeat the system or enemies
Motive 4.3.1 Political, religious goals and ideology
Motive 4.3.2 Affiliation
Motive 4.3.3 Power
As we can see, there is a wide range of intents and motives, and we have not mentioned all of
them. In this context, it is important to note that knowing the motives and intents makes sense
when adjusting the legislation, pairing, comparing and associating CBRN-E crimes with their
prevalence in a particular area or region. In conclusion, we would like to state that among the
examined cases, the motives of revenge, protest, financial gain, and desire to defeat the
system were the most represented.
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
We have been involved in CBRN-E crime fighting for several years, but we are still finding
that there are countless new things to learn. This is mainly related to the progress and
development of society and technologies, but also to the discovery of new practices and
motives of perpetrators.
With this article, we wanted to emphasize that there are certain shortcomings in the
assessment and perception of CBRN-E crime at the international level, or in the
underestimation of a certain category of CBRN-E crime. This is mainly due to inconsistent
terminology and differing legislation. We understand that there are different legal customs
and systems of other countries, but if we want to fight the CBRN-E threats together at the
international level, we must at least try to unify the procedures and also be familiar with the
systems of other countries. The exchange of good practice will thus enable us to speed up and
streamline joint investigations in cases of international scope. As we can see from the cases
we considered, most of them had a cross-border or international impact.
The real criminal cases that we have assessed, as well as the examined literature and
legislation, clearly point not only the shortcomings in the different perception of terminology,
but in particular in assessing the seriousness of CBRN-E crimes. Countries with highly
developed institutional and legislative systems for environmental protection highly take into
consideration the crimes of illegal storage of hazardous waste as well as other serious crimes
that harm human health and endanger society and the state. But this is not the case in
countries where awareness of environmental protection is not even developed. After several
interviews in unnamed countries, law enforcement colleagues were surprised to present
scenarios about the possible misuse of hazardous materials from illegal landfills by, for
example, terrorist organizations.
With this article, we therefore wanted to share experiences from some cases as well as the
existing criminal legislation of several countries in order to compare and initiate discussions
at national and international levels regarding common practices. We also wanted to achieve
this with the final subchapter devoted to the motivation, motives and intents of the
perpetrators. We believe that the presented motives and intents in CBRN-E crime in specific
cases can help in the future investigation of similar cases, in the profiling of perpetrators, and
also case linkage.
Finally, we would like to state that this article will be updated and we plan to follow it up in
other similar articles in the near future.
Marian Kolencik CBRN-E crime and offenders' motives
I would like to thank all my colleagues from the law enforcement and military community for
their consultations, especially in relation to legislation and specific cases, but also for the right
to use photographs.
- Cameron Mann (former UK CBRN Police Chief Inspector)
- Col. Mario Kern (Slovak CBRN Police Chief Investigator and Head of Environmental and
CBRN Police)
- Col. Frantisek Simon (Head of Czech CBRN Unit/CT Department) and Lt. Col. Zdenek
Petrik and (Czech CBRN CT police operation officer)
- Giorgi Beridze (Georgian Forensic police expert)
- Mjr. Patrick Didier (Gendarmerie Nationale de la République Francaise, Centre nationale
des operations operation officer and CBRN expert)
- Tobias Kreikemeyer (BKA, Germany, First Chief Detective CBRN expert)
- Triin Melnik (Rescue College, Estonia)
- Armenio Jose Louro Liceia (Portugal Police EOD unit acting commander, chief inspector)
- John Roche (former Irish Guarda officer)
- Pol. Lt. Col. Nandor Kocsis (Head of CBRN Department, Counter Terrorism Centre,
- Veterinary Major in the CBRN Department of INTA, Maria Victoria Ortega Garcia (Spain)
- Doc. Ing. Jozef Sabol, Dr.Sc (Czech Police Academy, RN Expert)
- dr. Hab. Michal Bijak, Leslaw Gorniak and Marcin Podogrocki (University of Lodz)
- and colleagues from Indonesian CSI police unit
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