Illegal wildlife and timber trades finance terrorist groups, U.N. says

Money goes to crime syndicates and extremist political groups, the U.N. says.
By Ed Adamczyk  |  June 24, 2014 at 2:04 PM
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UNITED NATIONS, June 24 (UPI) -- The illegal trade in wildlife and logging is helping finance global terrorism, said a report issued Tuesday by the United Nations and Interpol said.

Up to $213 billion dollars a year in the wildlife trade, including that of ivory, and up to $100 billion in illegal logging for wood used to make charcoal, are used in part to fund international crime syndicates, Islamist extremists and rebellions, the assessment from the U.N. Environment Program said.

It noted Al-Shabaab, the Somali extremist group with ties to al-Qaida, obtains between $38 million and $68 million on the sale of charcoal in eastern Africa. The ivory trade, in comparison, amounts to $12 million. African governments lose at least $1.9 billion per year from the untaxed sale of charcoal, as organized criminals make profits of around $9 billion per year, a figure three times the amount of the continent's drug trade.

"This number is likely to triple in the coming decades and we believe that the scale of logging in Africa alone would be equivalent in a few decades from now to what has been logged in the Amazon, just to sustain charcoal trade," said Christian Hellemann of the U.N. Environment Program.

Hellemann added the illegal timber trade "has been totally underestimated and is now being regarded as very significant."

Ben Janse van Rensburg, enforcement head of the U.N.'s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, referred to the illegal tirade in wildlife and timber as "a low-risk, high-profit crime."

Profits from the ivory trade also underwrite militias in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

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