Fighting Transnational Environmental Crime

By Elliott, Lorraine | Journal of International Affairs, Fall-Winter 2012 | Go to article overview

Fighting Transnational Environmental Crime

Elliott, Lorraine, Journal of International Affairs

Transnational environmental crime (TEC) is often not taken seriously within the broader policy and enforcement community. It is one of the fastest growing areas of cross-border criminal enterprise involving high profits and low risk for those involved in timber trafficking, wildlife smuggling, the black market in ozone-depleting substances, and the illegal trade in hazardous and toxic waste. TEC is increasingly characterized by commodity-specific smuggling networks, the intrusion of criminal groups involved in other forms of illegal trade and, in some cases, politically motivated organizations for whom this generates income to support other activities. But unlike other forms of transnational crime, there is no international treaty to prevent, suppress, and punish the kinds of trafficking and smuggling that constitute transnational environmental crime. The global regulatory and enforcement community has therefore developed innovative collaborative mechanisms to meet both the criminal and environmental challenges associated with this increasingly serious form of cross-border crime. Despite their successes, their efforts remain underresourced. This article examines the challenges of TEC and efforts to respond to those challenges in the face of uncertain resources and limited awareness.


At the 11th UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in April 2005, speakers identified wildlife smuggling and timber trafficking as an area of evolving organized criminal activity deserving of international attention? Within five years, the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) included a chapter on the illegal trade in environmental resources in its 2010 Transnational Organized Crime Threat Assessment, as well the more familiar Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) challenges of drugs, arms, and people smuggling? In March 2012, INTERPOL convened its first ever meeting of International Chiefs of Environmental Compliance and Enforcement. Delegates at the meeting confirmed their concerns about "the scale of environmental crime and the connection with organized transnational crime, including ... issues of smuggling, corruption, fraud, tax evasion, money laundering, and murder." (3) Two months later, in May 2012, the U. S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations held hearings on the national and global security implications of elephant poaching in Africa. Committee Chairman John Kerry reminded those present that elephant poaching is a "multi-million dollar criminal enterprise ... interwoven [with] some of Central and East Africa's most brutal conflicts." (4)

Something is clearly going on. Transnational environmental crime is reputed to be one of the fastest growing areas of criminal activity globally, worth billions of dollars in profit to criminal groups around the world. Estimates range from $31 billion to $40 billion a year or more. (5) Data from just a small selection of recent seizures and enforcement activity confirms the size and global reach of the illegal environmental trade. In November and December 2011, authorities in Guatemala uncovered three shipping containers ready for export, containing a total of almost 180 cubic meters of rosewood. (6) Between July 2010 and August 2012, customs and enforcement personnel working across Europe and Central Asia intercepted more than 3,000 refrigerant cylinders containing over 60 metric tons of illegally traded ozone-depleting substances (ODS). (7) In the first months of 2012, enforcement officers in Colombia rescued more than 46,000 animals, birds, and reptiles destined for the illegal international market. (8) In June 2012, customs officials in Sri Lanka seized 1.5 tons of ivory in the port of Colombo. The 359 tusks, which were determined to have come from Uganda, had been shipped out of Africa through Kenya and were en route to buyers in Dubai. (9) INTERPOL's Operation Cage, conducted across thirty-two countries in July 2012, resulted in the seizure of more than 8,700 birds and animals, including reptiles, mammals and insects, and the arrest of nearly 4,000 people. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Fighting Transnational Environmental Crime


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.