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Project LEAF (Law Enforcement Assistance for Forests) is an INTERPOL initiative against illegal logging and related crimes.

INTERPOL’s Project Leaf supports member countries to strengthen the response of law enforcement agencies, identify criminals and their modus operandi as well as to disrupt transnational criminal operations related to forestry crimes. Due to the need for a strong and organized law enforcement response to illegal logging and trade, the project enables investigators, criminal intelligence analysts, police, forestry law enforcement institutions, customs and tax authorities to advance and coordinate internationally their intelligence, analytical and investigative objectives. Project Leaf collaborates with international institutions and the national Ministries of the law enforcement agencies globally, with the joint mission of addressing transnational organized crime against forests and the environment.

The issues

Living forests are vital to mitigating climate change because they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Deforestation accounts for an estimated 17 per cent of global carbon emissions, greater than from all the world’s air, road, rail and shipping traffic combined.

National and international frameworks exist to protect forests, reduce illegal logging, support sustainable practices and reduce emissions – for example, the international climate finance mechanism known as REDD+, which is supported by UN and World Bank initiatives.

Despite this increased concern for sustainable forestry, around only eight per cent of the world’s forests are certified as sustainably managed.

It is estimated that illegal logging accounts for 50-90 per cent of all forestry activities in key producer tropical forests, such as those of the Amazon Basin, Central Africa and Southeast Asia, and 15-30 per cent of all wood traded globally. Illegal logging continues to occur in many formally protected forests, especially in tropical countries.

The trade in illegally harvested timber is highly lucrative and estimated to be worth between USD 51 and USD 152 billion annually.

Illegal logging operations rely on corruption and could not occur without some form of consent from government officials responsible for protecting forests. Officials accept bribes that allow criminals to obtain logging permits, avoid detection and export illegal timber. This results in the loss of crucial resources for developing countries, while damaging their economies, public trust, and institutional structures.

The response

An international, coordinated response is essential in order to combat the organized transnational nature of the criminal groups involved in illegal logging. Otherwise, halting illegal logging in one country will merely result in an increase in another as the demand for illegally logged wood products remains unchanged.

Effective compliance and enforcement requires cooperation among the many different law enforcement agencies involved, including police, forest authorities, anti-corruption units, financial intelligence units (FIUs) and customs.

By involving the FIUs and investigating financial crimes – such as money laundering – in the forestry sector, the law enforcement community can identify and confiscate the proceeds of those crimes. Following the money trail leads to the masterminds or financiers of the illegal logging operations and, most importantly, to their assets.

Activities

  • Support criminal intelligence analysisto identify criminals, their networks and their modus operandi.
  • Provide analytical support on the movement of illegal timber along the entire supply chain and ownership associations of the companies and vehicles or vessels involved.This may include forensic analysis of electronic equipment through support from the INTERPOL Digital Forensics Laboratory, and expert examination of forestry material, equipment and documentation.
  • Issue international notices and alertson behalf of member countries to request information on, and warn of, the movements and activities of people, vehicles and vessels.
  • Provide case-specific investigative and technical guidancethrough the deployment of specialised Investigative Support Teams composed of INTERPOL and national experts.
  • Organize national and regional trainingsrelevant to forestry crime, including evidence collection, chain-of-custody and operational planning.
  • Convene Regional Investigative and Analytical Case Meetings (RIACMs)to facilitate the exchange of investigative information and provide a setting for countries to collectively examine ongoing transnational cases and prepare joint enforcement actions.
  • Disseminateexperts’ recommendations and the best practices for combating forestry crimes.
  • Enhance information and intelligence sharingamong investigators and intelligence services from different countries, and optimise entry the of information into INTERPOL databases.

See related reports and manuals on our Resources page.

Project Leaf - news
09 décembre 2016

Global corruption in forestry sector worth USD 29 billion a year – INTERPOL report


18 octobre 2016

Enhancing environmental security through cooperation


15 avril 2016

INTERPOL training in Argentina targets corruption in the forestry sector


21 mars 2016

International Day of Forests: the role of environmental security


26 novembre 2015

Opérations INTERPOL contre le commerce de bois illégal en Afrique et dans les Amériques


21 août 2015

INTERPOL’s Project Leaf looks to boost efforts against forestry crime in Asia and East Africa


03 mars 2015

INTERPOL encourage l’action internationale lors de la Journée mondiale de la vie sauvage


12 février 2015

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


21 novembre 2014

INTERPOL organise des formations à la lutte contre la criminalité forestière en Amérique du Sud


25 juillet 2014

Le commerce de bois illégal cible d’une opération menée avec le soutien d’INTERPOL et de l’OMD au Pérou


26 juin 2014

Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda unite efforts to combat illegal timber trade in East Africa


24 juin 2014

Illegal trade in wildlife and timber products finances criminal and militia groups, threatening security and sustainable development


21 mars 2014

Clear-cut crime scenes: Why the International Day of Forests matters


26 juillet 2013

INTERPOL member countries continue fight against illegal logging in Latin America


03 mai 2013

Formation INTERPOL sur le thème de la protection des forêts


21 mars 2013

Combating illegal logging key to saving our forests and preventing climate change


19 février 2013

Des pays d’Amérique latine participent à la première opération d’INTERPOL contre l’exploitation forestière illégale


27 septembre 2012

Un rapport INTERPOL - PNUE révèle que l’exploitation illégale du bois pourrait rapporter jusqu’à 100 milliards de dollars par an à la criminalité organisée


13 septembre 2012

Les fonctionnaires des services de protection de l’environnement renouent avec leurs racines grâce à une initiative conjointe d’INTERPOL et de la Police fédérale brésilienne


05 juin 2012

INTERPOL lance le projet LEAF pour lutter contre l’exploitation forestière illégale dans le monde