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12 February 2015

Uniting West African efforts to tackle illegal timber trade focus of INTERPOL workshop

LOMÉ, Togo – Enhancing cooperation between West African countries to better tackle the illegal trade in timber across the region was the focus of an INTERPOL workshop in Togo.

In addition to police and forest law enforcement officers from Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Togo, representatives from Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal also attended the two day (10 and 11 February) workshop aimed at developing and improving technical and law enforcement cooperation.

Togo’s Minister for the environment and Forest Resources, André Johnson said to meet the challenge of illegal logging the relevant enforcement agencies need to be able to identify illicit activity, to recognize criminal acts and the methods used by poachers.

He underlined the fact that most illegal logging and other linked criminal activity is often facilitated by fake documentation, operations in unauthorized areas such as reserves or national parks and is linked to the killing of endangered species.

Yark Damehame, Togo’s Minister of Security and Civil Protection told the workshop that in the face of the unfolding environmental disaster, new and effective strategies need to be established. He also emphasized the need to increase efforts to identify the main actors, their accomplices and modus operandi, as well as the export points and the main destinations for illegal wood products.

The workshop, which was co-organized by the Ministries of Environment and Forest Resources, Security and Civil Protection and the INTERPOL National Central Bureau (NCB) in Togo, supported by the Norwegian Agency for Development Corporation, was held under the umbrella of INTERPOL’s Project Leaf, an initiative against illegal logging and related crimes.

Environmental crimes, including wildlife trafficking and forest crimes, are often linked to transnational crime networks, requiring a regional and global response. Through its network of 190 member countries, INTERPOL is continuing to support law enforcement around the globe to more effectively combat environmental crime.
 
To this end, later this year INTERPOL will be supporting a regional law enforcement operation aimed at tackling the illegal trade of timber and charcoal originating in West African countries.