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21 March 2017

International Day of Forests: INTERPOL's global role in environmental security

LYON, France - The International Day of Forests every 21 March is a reminder of the role of law enforcement worldwide in tackling forestry crimes which include corruption, money laundering, illegal logging and timber trafficking.

Through its Project Leaf, INTERPOL's Environmental Security programme mobilizes decision makers, stakeholders and governments to promote forestry compliance and enforcement measures worldwide.

Project Leaf was launched in June 2012 with funding from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD). In collaboration with UN Environment, it provides a coordinated global response to transnational organized crime affecting the forestry sector.

Since its launch, some 800 law enforcement officials have been trained worldwide via the project. It has also coordinated international operations on shipments of illicit timber, resulting in hundreds of arrests and confiscations worth USD 1.5 billion.

"Forestry crime is among the most lucrative of environmental crimes. For this reason, financial crime investigations into the forestry sector are critical for dismantling the criminal networks operating transnationally. Their low risk, high profit crimes threaten not only our forests and natural resources but also undermine the rule of law and stability," said INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock.

"Through our Environmental Security programme we help police identify and use the global tools and methods needed to develop a collective and effective response to protect forests. Our collaboration with partners such as Norway and the United Nations is a cornerstone of that global response," added Secretary General Stock.

Project Leaf has estimated the annual global cost of corruption in the forestry sector to be worth nearly USD 30 billion in lost government revenue.

Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment, Vidar Helgesen, said: "Illegal logging and its associated trade is a global environmental security problem. Forestry crime is often driven by cynical criminal networks that exploit vulnerable people, the environment, and the countries in which they operate by avoiding taxes and corrupting their way to access forest resources. Combating illegal logging is a priority in many of our rainforest partner countries, and Norway is proud to support this work through INTERPOL's Project Leaf.

With law enforcement operations focusing on forestry crime planned in South East Asia in the coming months, Police Major General Vorapong Thongpaibul of the Royal Thai Police said: "Enhancing regional cooperation is a priority for tackling forest crime in South East Asia. The Royal Thai Police applauds INTERPOL's ongoing initiatives through Project Leaf, notably by connecting law enforcement between countries in the Mekong Basin."

INTERPOL's global capabilities against forestry crime include criminal intelligence and forensic analysis, international notices and alerts, the deployment of specialized Investigative Support Teams, capacity building and training.