Environmental corruption has destroyed ecosystems, and wildlife is at the edge of extinction. The un-monitored plundering of the environmental resources has resulted in the deplorable state of its being. Environmental crimes have shot up to a great extent in a short period of time. These crimes include illegal trading of wildlife, poaching, crimes in the forestry sector, illegal exploitation and selling of precious metal and minerals, illegal fisheries, the trafficking of illegal wildlife products and hazardous waste etc.
According to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and INTERPOL – The Rise of Environmental Crime, the value of environmental crime has gone up by a shocking 26 per cent, increasing at a rate of 5-7 per cent per year in the past decade. The amount of money invested in combating the issue is a mere 20-30 million USD. Estimated value of eco-crime has hit a record high of up to 258 billion USD as compared to 213 billion USD in 2014. It is estimated to be growing three folds as compared to the global GDP. The figures imply the enormity of these crimes and the extent of loss that is incurred across the world. Estimated to be the fourth-largest criminal enterprise after drug smuggling, counterfeiting and human trafficking; environmental crime poses a serious threat to sustainable development as well as disrupts world economies. The pre-requisite to eliminate this global threat is that it needs to be addressed on an immediate basis. The complexity and severity of this criminal offence requires strong action, legislation and sanctions at the national and international level channelized by cross-border collaborations. INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock said, “Through its global policing capabilities INTERPOL is resolutely committed to working with its member countries to combat the organized crime networks active in environmental crime.”
United Nation’s ‘Wild For Life campaign’ has reached out to global celebrities such as Gisele Bündchen, Yaya Touré and Neymar Jr. to be a part of the cause and encourage millions to take action against the atrocities brought upon by the defaulters. The Government of Angola, host of this year’s World Environment Day, has joined this collective fight and has vowed to take strict action against the prevalent domestic trade in illegal ivory, toughen border controls and restore its elephant population through conservation measures. Similarly, thousands of people along with more than 25 ministers have adopted various species to show their commitment to protecting wildlife.
Misuse of environmental resources due to poorly formulated laws with improper implementation along with defeciently funded security forces has led to the profiting of international criminal gangs and militant groups enabling international criminal networks and armed rebels to profit from a trade that fuels conflicts.
The report provides insights into illegal exploitation of natural resources and how it funds rebel groups, terrorist networks and international criminal cartels:
- Organized criminal cartels – The International criminal cartels use environmental crime to launder drug money. For example, in Colombia, illegal gold mining is considered one of the easiest ways to launder money from the country’s drug trade. These cartels are also involved in the trafficking of hazardous waste and chemicals, often mislabeling this type of waste in order to evade law enforcement agencies.
- Rebel groups – Criminal networks linked to the conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have spent about 2 per cent of their proceeds to fund up to 49 different rebel groups. As estimated by the UN, the value of illegal exploitation of natural resources in eastern DRC is valued at 722-862 million USD annually
- Illegal Logging – The value of forestry crimes, including corporate crimes and illegal logging, is estimated at 50-152 billion USD per year.
- White collar Crime – This incorporates the use of shell companies in tax havens, laundering money generated from illegal logging, transferring mispricing, hacking and identity theft. Carbon trading is the world’s fastest growing commodities market. Carbon credit fraud cases have involved sums of transfers and profits that stretch into the hundreds of millions of dollars.