Smuggled timber, trafficked eels: Agencies ramp up against environmental crime

Two baby Sumatran orangutans rescued by border officials who foiled a bid to smuggle them into Thailand arrive at a wildlife center at Ratchaburi province, Thailand, on Sept 13, 2017.
Two baby Sumatran orangutans rescued by border officials who foiled a bid to smuggle them into Thailand arrive at a wildlife center at Ratchaburi province, Thailand, on Sept 13, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - From smuggled timber to trafficked eels, policing agencies pledged on Friday (May 4) to ramp up their efforts to curb environmental crimes estimated to cost billions of dollars annually.

Europol, Europe's policing agency, and the Centre for Climate Crime Analysis (CCCA), a group of prosecutors and law enforcement officers that support the prosecution of "climate crimes" - signed a deal to cooperate more closely on criminal activities ranging from wildlife trafficking to illegal logging.

Environmental wrongdoing - the world's fourth most valuable criminal enterprise after drug smuggling, counterfeiting and human trafficking - finances conflicts, threatens sustainable development, and undermines local land rights, according to the UN.

The value of stolen natural resources - including fish, timber, gold and other minerals - is estimated to be more than US$200 billion (S$266 billion) per year, according to the UN.

The cooperation between Europol and the CCCA is "a clear signal that law enforcement regards environmental crimes, especially those that have an impact on climate change, to be among the most serious and consequential crimes", said Reinhold Gallmetzer, chair of the CCCA's board of directors.

Law enforcement can "significantly contribute" to global efforts to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement, he said in a statement.

The Paris pact set a goal of keeping the rise in average global temperatures to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times, and ideally to 1.5 degrees.

A spokesman for Europol told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that the combined efforts would provide the agency with "a fresh view to tackle environmental crimes" and enhance its support to national authorities on such issues.

Earlier this year, Europol helped Spanish authorities seize 350kg of trafficked glass eels and more than 600 smuggled reptiles, he added.