The Environmental Crime Crisis

New and old trafficking routes

Environment-related illegal trafficking. Includes wood, wildlife, animal parts (i.e.ivory, rhinocerous horns and fur) and wastes

Main illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing areas

“Traditional” illegal trafficking. Includes heroin, cocaine and human beings Main destination country Main transit country Country of origin of “traditional” illegal trafficking Main country or region of origin of environmental related illegal trafficking Sources: UNODC Annual Reports 2010 e 2013; WWF-Australia;, Estimates of the percentage of “Illegal Timber” in the imports of wood-based products from selected countries, 2007; TRAFFIC; FAO; World Ocean Review Report 2013; Michigan State University, Human Trafficking Task Force; Greenpeace, The Toxic Ship, 2010; National Geographic press review.

at least four years or more. A definitive definition of environ- mental crime, which is enforceable throughout the transna- tional crime chain, is therefore urgently needed to ensure a common understanding of the terminology. Legislation on environmental crimes in many countries is under-developed. Sentencing guidelines typically address petty crimes and do not reflect the very serious nature and involve- ment of organized crime and the impacts it has on environment, economic and social development of the countries and local communities or populations. They do not take into account the sheer scale of loss of resources, money laundering or threats to state security involved. Existing laws inmost countries are already in place to address such serious crimes, but there is a consider- able lack of awareness of how environmental crime often falls into other categories of far more serious violations. Often the wrong laws, such as those pertaining to pure environmental violations are applied in court, rather than those addressing the involvement of organized crime, tax fraud, violence, trafficking and even funding of non-state armed groups. The lack of information regarding the role of environmental crime in threat finance – the financing of criminal networks and non-state armed groups including militias, extremists and terrorism – thus lead to comparatively trivial sentences of only minimal fines and occasionally short-term prison sentences. Insufficient investigation of the role of networks in environ- mental crime, which in many cases in practice constitutes threat finance, too often leads to failure in prosecution. This gap is being heavily exploited by organized crime to exploit natural resources, expand their illicit business sectors and contribute to conflicts with little or no risk. The low risk of illegal trading in

Annual revenue, higher estimates Billion dollars A growing sector

Illegal logging and trafficking






Illegal fishing


Wildlife trafficking



Illegal trafficking of light weapons

Illegal trafficking of toxic wastes


Sources: TRAFFIC; FAO; UNODC; Global Financial Integrity

Figure 2. Number of transactions registered in wildlife and plants by CITES.


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