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World Bank Report: Criminal Gangs Make $10-15 Billion Through Illegal Logging

A new World Bank report released on Tuesday says that illegal logging in some countries accounts for as much as 90 percent of all logging and generates approximately $10-15 billion annually in criminal proceeds.

Mostly controlled by organized crime, this money is untaxed and is used to pay corrupt government officials at all levels, says the report titled Justice for Forests: Improving Criminal Justice Efforts to Combat Illegal Logging.

Every two seconds, a forest area the size of a football field is clear-cut by illegal loggers around the globe. The report shows how countries can effectively fight illegal logging through the criminal justice system, punish organized crime, and trace and confiscate illegal logging profits.

The report affirms that to be effective, law enforcement needs to look past low-level criminals and look at where the profits from illegal logging go. By following the money trail, and using tools developed in more than 170 countries to go after 'dirty money,' criminal justice can pursue criminal organizations engaged in large-scale illegal logging and confiscate ill-gotten gains.

The report provides policy and operational recommendations for policy makers and forestry and law enforcement actors to integrate illegal logging into criminal justice strategies, foster international and domestic cooperation among policy makers, law enforcement authorities and other key stakeholders, and make better use of financial intelligence.

"We need to fight organized crime in illegal logging the way we go after gangsters selling drugs or racketeering," said Jean Pesme, Manager of the World Bank Financial Market Integrity team that helps countries implement effective legal and operational frameworks to combat illicit financial flows.

Despite compelling evidence showing that illegal logging is a global epidemic, most forest crimes go undetected, unreported, or are ignored.

Organized crime networks behind large scale illegal logging have links to corruption at the highest levels of government. Investigation of forest crimes is made even more complex by the international dimension of these operations. Recognizing these challenges, the study calls for law enforcement actions that are focused on the "masterminds" behind these networks—and the corrupt officials who enable and protect them.

by RTT Staff Writer

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