A world Bank (WB) report released yesterday shows that in every two seconds, a forest area equivalent to the size of a football pitch (about 5,000 square metres) is cleared by illegal loggers across the world.
The report entitled: “Justice for Forests: Improving Criminal Justice Efforts to Combat Illegal Logging” states that world governments can effectively fight against illegal logging through the criminal justice system, punish organised crime and trace and confiscate illegal logs and profits.
It says to be effective, law enforcement agents must look at where the profits from illegal logging are going.
The report further says world governments must use tools developed in over 170 countries to check dirty money.
“Law enforcers can trace those involved in large-scale illegal logging and confiscate ill-gotten gains,” the report states.
The WB estimates that illegal logging in some countries accounts for as much as 90 per cent of all logging and generates approximately between US$10 and 15 billion annually in criminal proceeds. Mostly controlled by organised crime, this money is untaxed and is used to pay corrupt government officials.
The report provides practical recommendations for policy makers and law enforcers to integrate illegal logging into criminal justice strategies, foster international and domestic cooperation among policy makers, law enforcers and key stakeholders.
However, world governments have been advised to raise public awareness at ministerial level, make illegal logging a priority and ensure it is clearly communicated to members of the public and those entrusted with investigation and prosecution.
Forestry ministers should engage ministers for justice to ensure illegal logging becomes a criminal justice priority and is appropriately integrated into the national criminal justice strategy.