Two Interpol-led Operations Against Environmental Crime Net 70 Suspects

Published: 06 December 2023

Interpol Timber Bahia NegraIllegal timber trade is one of the illicit economies tackled during these Interpol operations. (Interpol, License)

By Lieth Carrillo

Police in Nigeria and Latin America have arrested 70 suspects in two Interpol-led operations targeting environmental crimes such as illegal mining, mercury trafficking, deforestation, illegal hunting, and forced labor, according to the international police agency.

The Interpol statement highlighted that environmental crime has become the third most lucrative industry for transnational organized crime groups, generating up to US$ 280 billion a year and destabilizing communities, economies, and the environment.

Operation Aurum took place in Nigeria, focusing on criminal networks involved in illegal mining, mercury trafficking, and deforestation. Authorities arrested 52 suspects, including 11 high-level targets, and seized 18 trucks carrying large quantities of illegally extracted products. The operation aimed to address health risks, pollution, forced labor, and violence affecting vulnerable communities, including minors recruited for forced labor in illegal mining activities.

In Alto Paraguay, part of the tri-border region of Paraguay, Brazil, and Bolivia, Operation Black Bay targeted illegal settlements involved in illegal hunting, timber trafficking, and forced labor. The operation also aimed to investigate illegal trafficking routes for timber and wildlife shipments. Eight of the 23 arrested suspects were linked to an Asian transnational criminal network involved in global wildlife trafficking.

Both operations were financed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as part of a partnership with the International Initiative of Law Enforcement for Climate (I2LEC).

Stephen Kavanagh, Interpol Executive Director of Police Services, emphasized that these "operations demonstrate how environmental crime is a highly organized transnational criminal activity which requires a strong and internationally coordinated law enforcement response. Our partnership with the UAE in this endeavor underlines the escalating threat posed by environmental crime in the age of climate change."