Interpol has recently released a report on the scale of corruption in the global forestry sector. The report also highlights the importance of law enforcement efforts across national boundaries in order to protect forests.
In the global forestry sector, the cost of corruption reaches to $29 billion each year. Bribery, fraud, abuse of office and nepotism are some of the most common forms of forestry corruption.
“Criminal networks use corruption and the bribery of officials to establish ‘safe passage’ for the illegal movement of timber,” the report states. “Those criminal groups also exploit these routes to transport other illicit goods, such as drugs and firearms.”
According to Mongabay, Interpol says that a 13-country survey discovered an average of 250 cases of corruption in each country related to the forestry sector every year between 2009 and 2014. The culprits most likely to be involved in corruption in the forestry sector are government officials who work for Forestry Agencies.
The forestry sector is very vulnerable to corruption, especially in the tropics, where the jurisdictions have weak governments. There, the corruption occurs at the point of harvest in about 50% of the cases. Road transport accounted for another 23.1% of cases, and processing plants 26.9%.
Interpol launched Project LEAF (Law Enforcement Assistance for Forests) in 2012 to counter various forestry crimes, including illegal logging and timber trafficking, as well as related crimes like corruption. The project involves collaboration between Interpol and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and provides a coordinated global response to organized and transnational crime in the forestry sector, Mongabay reports.
Interpol’s recommendations for reducing the risk of corruption include policy and legislative reforms in countries where forest laws and regulations are ambiguous or unclear, ; enhanced financial investigations to determine which government officials are living above their legitimate means and could receive bribes and adoption of Interpol’s secure communications network for anti-corruption investigators.