Organized Crime Groups Drive Increase in Illegal Logging, Report Says

Illegal logging accounts for 15 to 30 percent of the global logging trade, with an increasing number of illegal operations in the world’s tropical regions being driven by organized crime, a new report says. According to the report, released by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and INTERPOL, the illegal logging trade is now worth between $30 billion and $100 billion each year and is undermining global efforts to protect forests in the world’s most important tropical regions, including the Amazon, central Africa, and Southeast Asia. “Illegal logging is not on the decline, rather it is becoming more advanced as cartels become better organized, including shifting their illegal activities in order to avoid national and local police efforts,” wrote Achim Steiner and Ronald Noble, the heads of UNEP and INTERPOL, respectively. In the Brazilian state of Pará, for example, illegally obtained permits allowed logging cartels to steal an estimated 1.7 million cubic meters of forest in 2008. A year later, Brazilian investigators uncovered a scam involving 3,000 companies illegally exporting logged timber as allegedly “eco-certified” wood.