Coordinated international law enforcement efforts led to seizure of timber worth USD 1.5 billion

Interpol and its partners contributed to improved law enforcement capacity and effectiveness of operations in developing countries to tackle illegal logging and forestry crime.



Why did Norway decide to support this project?

The deforestation and degradation of the world's forests is continuing and growing, and illegal international trade in illegally harvested timber contributes to the deforestation. Between 15% and 30% of all timber traded globally is estimated to stem from illegal sources. Illegal logging has detrimental consequences, especially in developing countries, which are the most affected by illegal trade in forests with biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation damaging their development efforts.

Incidents of illegal harvest and international trade in timber deprives these countries of resources which, when sustainably managed, are key to ensure their long term revenues, in particular for rural communities. To assist countries in facing the often sophisticated criminal networks, a coordinated international and regional response is needed amongst other efforts. Therefore, Norway decided to support Interpol’s Project LEAF, which is designed to meet this challenge.


Overall, Norad is pleased with the results Interpol has achieved during the project period. Insufficient baseline information makes it complicated to track results properly. However, Interpol has presented good information on several achievements, and below follows Norad’s assessment of these.

Outcome 1: The arrest of criminals leading to the shutting down of criminal networks involved in illegal logging, import and trade of illegal wood products and fraud and corruption associated with tax and funding mechanisms.

Interpol coordinated ten successful law enforcement operations, in which 34 countries in total across Asia, Africa and the Americas participated. These operations resulted in 349 arrests. The number of the arrests in 2012 alone (200) was high, but 85% of the arrests were low level criminals, usually including loggers and truck drivers. Few middle level and no high level criminals were arrested. To shut down criminal networks, it is important that the offenders further up the chain also face charges. Between 2013 and 2015, 349 people were arrested, and the quality of these arrests has been enhanced. 48 % of the arrested offenders were low level, 40% were facilitators, 10% were company owners/managers and 2% head of criminal groups as demonstrated in the pie to the right. The fact that about half of the arrested are facilitators and company owners, may send a signal to criminal actors that law enforcement agencies increase their focus on environmental crime.  

Outcome 2: Government and international donor investment in building law enforcement capacity.

There are now designated officers within the INTERPOL National Central Bureaus focusing on environmental crimes in 15 Project LEAF target countries. In addition, countries such as Brazil, China, Cyprus, France and The Netherlands have funded the secondment of officials in Project LEAF’s unit willing to support the international law enforcement cooperation to address this type of crime. 

It is positive that the countries have increased focus on illegal logging through dedicating human resources to combat this type of criminal activity. Norad believes that the operationalization of the outcome goal could have been broader, and thereby capturing more nuances in the countries’ investment trends. 

Outcome 3: Stronger capacity of national law enforcement agencies to conduct operations and collaborate with INTERPOL and other regional enforcement agencies.

Throughout the project period, Interpol has trained approximately 800 law enforcement officers. The investigative outcome of the INTERPOL led operations on forestry crime, as described above, indicates that the capacity building programmes delivered by Project LEAF have contributed in enhancing the standard of officer’s skills and responses.

25 % of the participants responded to questionnaires distributed by Interpol six months after the training.  80% of these respondents have continued to use the acquired knowledge in their everyday work. Norad acknowledges that there are methodological challenges related to the limited number of respondents and thus the conclusions, but the responses can indicate a positive output of the trainings.

Lastly, Norad believes that the increased cooperation and intelligence exchange with civil society organisations is positive. Interpol highlights the collaboration with civil society during Operation Red Eye as effective because they provided Interpol with important information that led to a number of seizures in East Africa and South East Asia.

Outcome 4: A reduction in greenhouse gas emission from the forest sector and conservation of the World’s forests

According to Interpol’s calculations, their project has led to 410,172 tons of reduced CO2-emmissions. The calculation includes financial and prevention arguments for why law enforcement operations may deter some new illegal logging activities.


The result descriptions are based on the information provided by the organisations. Their presentations and conclusions do not necessarily reflect the views of Norad. Norad has not verified all results reported.

Published 23.10.2013
Last updated 19.06.2018