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Tracking The Dirty Money Trail To End Illegal Logging

International organized crime networks earn billions of dollars every year from illegal logging. A new World Bank report suggests that if authorities really want to save the forests, they should follow the money.

Illegal logging in Madagascar (Erik Patel)
Illegal logging in Madagascar (Erik Patel)


Every two seconds, an area of forest the size of a football field is cut down by illegal loggers around the globe, according to a World Bank report released this week. What can law officials do to stop it? "Follow the money," says the World Bank, which has been working on the issue for more than a decade.

The report, entitled "Justice for Forests," suggests that large-scale illegal logging would not be possible without the organized crime networks that are paying corrupt officials at the highest levels of government. Revenue from the timber mafias' illegal logging – which represents 20-40% of the global timber trade - is estimated at between $10 billion and $15 billion per year, plus $5 billion more in lost tax revenue and unpaid royalties.

If law enforcement authorities really want to crack down on the practice, they'll need to apply the same tools already being used in the fight against money laundering, the World Bank urges. "We need to fight organized crime in illegal logging the way we go after gangsters selling drugs or racketeering," says Jean Pesme, manager of the Bank's Financial Market Integrity unit.

More than 170 countries already share a number of conventions, paving the way for broad international cooperation to track down these illicit funds and freeze accounts. Interpol, which has been working with the World Bank on this subject since 2008, will soon be setting up a dedicated team to tackle international "forest crimes'.

Read the full article in French in Le Monde

Photo - Erik Patel

*Newsbites are digests, not full translations.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Putin's "Pig-Like" Latvia Threat Is A Chilling Reminder Of What's At Stake In Ukraine

In the Ukraine war, Russia's military spending is as high as ever. Now the West is alarmed because the Kremlin leader is indirectly hinting at a possible attack on Latvia, a NATO member. It is a reminder of a growing danger to Europe.

Photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Pavel Lokshin


BERLIN — Russian President Vladimir Putin sometimes chooses downright bizarre occasions to launch his threats against the West. It was at Monday's meeting of the Russian Human Rights Council, where Putin expressed a new, deep concern. It was not of course about the human rights of the thousands of political prisoners in his own country, but about the Russian population living in neighboring Latvia, which happens to be a NATO member, having to take language tests.

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