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26 May 2011

International experts underline key role of forensics in global fight against environmental crime at INTERPOL conference

Meeting sees development of first INTERPOL manual on basic environmental forensics

LAKEWOOD, USA – Exchanging best practices and minimum standards in the application of forensic sciences in environmental crime cases has been the focus of the INTERPOL Pollution Crime Forensics meeting which draws to a close today.

The three-day meeting (24-26 May), gathering 50 representatives from 17 countries worldwide and co-hosted by the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Office, provided a key forum for investigators, forensic experts and prosecutors from around the world to exchange innovative approaches in pollution crime forensics, and to determine minimum standards for successful prosecutions of environmental criminals behind offences which pose significant environmental and health risks, in particular in developing countries in Africa and Asia.

The meeting in Lakewood saw the launch of a new INTERPOL project on Pollution Crime Forensics, which was adopted during the 7th International Environmental Crime Conference hosted by INTERPOL in Lyon in September 2010, recognizing the use of forensics as a crucial component to successful environmental prosecutions.

The Pollution Crime Forensics project comes at a time when most environmental forensics laboratories around the world perform their highly skilled science in isolation from their international colleagues. Furthermore, in many developing countries, resources and capacity for environmental crime forensics are extremely limited. In this respect, a key element of the meeting is the development of the first INTERPOL manual on basic environmental forensics.

Opening the conference as key-note speaker, the Deputy Director of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s National Enforcement Investigation Centre (NEIC), Tom Norris, explained the agency’s strong support to the project: "The United States Environmental Protection Agency is proud to host this important meeting of environmental enforcement professionals. Over three days, participants shared their expertise and discussed the technical and scientific problems encountered in environmental crimes investigations. The participants have created the framework for the INTERPOL Pollution Crime Forensics Manual that will make their joint expertise available for law enforcers around the world."

INTERPOL Pollution Crime Officer and project manager Emile Lindemulder said: "This conference has brought together for the first time forensic experts, environmental investigators and prosecutors from around the world who are all dedicated to cracking pollution crime cases that endanger public health and our natural environment.”

“Only through international cooperation projects like these can we keep up with the ever growing number of environmental crime cases we are faced with and that too often fail to lead to a successful prosecution due to lack of convincing evidence. The INTERPOL Environmental Crime Programme is the logical international partner to manage a global project to tackle this challenge. We applaud the leading role that the co-hosting US Environmental Protection Agency has taken in laying the foundation for this new INTERPOL initiative."

Environmental crime is considered a serious crime, very often connected to organized crime, and a growing international problem by INTERPOL’s General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon, France, and by its Environmental Crime Programme. INTERPOL’s General Assembly held in Qatar in November 2010 expressed its deep concern about the serious impact environmental crime can have on the planet, biodiversity, the global economy and human life.