The annual global cost of corruption in the forestry sector is worth some US$29 billion, according to an INTERPOL report released on International Anti-Corruption Day.
Criminal networks often bribe officials to establish ‘safe passage’ for the illegal movement of timber. Other forms of corruption include fraud, abuse of office, extortion, cronyism and nepotism.
Criminal groups also exploit these routes to transport other illicit goods such as drugs and firearms.
The report, entitled Uncovering the Risks of Corruption in the Forestry Sector offered a case study where a mayor in Peru controlled a timber business that had been used to strategically build a logistical network for bribing officials to move illegally harvested timber out of the country.
He was later arrested for his involvement in drug trafficking through plywood shipments. Assets worth US$71 million were seized.
“By raising awareness and documenting current corruption practices as well as potential solutions, we empower law enforcement officers in the field. This increases the chances of criminals getting caught and is one of the greatest deterrents to corruption,” said INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock.
In 2012, INTERPOL launched Project Leaf to counter various aspects of forestry crime, including illegal logging and timber trafficking, and related crimes such as corruption.
Under the Project, INTERPOL can issue international alerts on behalf of member countries on criminal activities.