LYON, France – An international coalition led by INTERPOL and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has launched the second phase of a global programme to tackle forestry crime.
With its emphasis on intelligence-led operations, multi-agency cooperation, and technical law enforcement expertise, the programme – codenamed LEAP II – will offer a unique portfolio of support that helps countries across Latin America and Southeast Asia address forestry crime and illegal tropical deforestation.
Funded by Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI), LEAP helps global law enforcement disrupt international criminal networks and protect the world’s forests.
Bringing key players together to fight crimes against the planet
Building on the success of Phase 1, LEAP II will continue to help countries identify illicit activities along the timber supply chain and prevent, detect and disrupt global criminal networks involved in forest crime.
Officers on the frontlines will use global police databases and intelligence to uncover suspected criminals, detect the movement of protected merchandise and spot suspicious companies across multiple jurisdictions.
“Billions are being made in illicit profits by criminals effectively looting our planet. It is only through committed law enforcement efforts and multi-agency and private sector cooperation at the global level that can we effectively tackle this global crime,” said INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock.
“Phase I of LEAP saw significant successes in fighting one of the world’s most lucrative environmental crimes, so INTERPOL is very pleased to renew our working relationship with both NICFI and UNODC,” added Secretary General Stock.
Targeted law enforcement operations to end illegal deforestation
The first phase of LEAP led to the seizure of more than 500 tonnes of illegal timber seizures, numerous arrests and the disruption of several criminal networks worldwide.
“We cannot afford to allow the continued exploitation of our rainforests. Criminals have been selfishly profiting from illegal deforestation for too long, putting our climate, biodiversity, and human health at gigantic risk,” said Ghada Waly, Executive Director of UNODC.
“By joining forces with INTERPOL and Norway, LEAP has been a powerful way to fight back against this alarming threat, and I am confident that its second phase will continue to help safeguard our rainforests for generations to come,” added Executive Director Waly.
In 2022 alone, INTERPOL and LEAP partners coordinated four global operations targeting illegal logging and wildlife crime, with over 1,000 timber seizures in 40 countries, the equivalent of 50,468 m3 or 20 Olympic swimming pools with a total value of USD 740,000.
Field operations saw the arrest of some 300 individuals, triggering more than 20 transnational investigations in LEAP beneficiary countries as well as the identification of 25 new international illegal timber trade routes.
“Illegal logging poses a threat to the rainforest. Behind are often powerful people and networks who profit from the logging and who convert the forest to cultivate coca and other crops or to develop mines,” said Espen Barth Eide, Norway’s Minister of Climate and Environment.
“I am proud to announce Norway’s support to a new phase of our collaboration with INTERPOL and the UNODC. This will enable them to continue their support to rainforest countries in their investigations and prosecutions of forest crime.”
LEAP I – implemented between 2018 and 2022 – served to establish tailored working relationships with law enforcement agencies across the globe, building a solid foundation for sustainability and efficiency in tackling organized forest crime.
LEAP II will enable countries to tackle forestry crime through associated crime areas such as money laundering, tax evasion, corruption and drug trafficking.
The three organizations supporting LEAP work together to improve law enforcement capacity, connectivity between countries and agencies, and the successful prosecution of cases related to illegal deforestation.
The launch of LEAP’s phase II is particularly timely given the official kick off today of the Nature Crime Alliance (NCA) during the Global Environment Facility in Vancouver, Canada.
With close NCA-INTERPOL collaboration key to greater impact in tackling environmental crime, INTERPOL is one of the launch partners of this global, multi-sector network aiming at raising political will, mobilizing financial commitment, and bolstering operational capacity to fight crimes against the environment.