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.