“The brutality and profit margins in the area of environmental crime are almost unimaginable. Cartels have taken over entire sectors of illegal mining, the timber trade and waste disposal,” according to Sasa Braun, intelligence officer with Interpol’s environmental security program Braun listed examples. Villages in Peru that had resisted deforestation efforts had been razed to the ground by criminal gangs in retribution, he said, while illegal fishing fleets had thrown crew overboard to avoid having to pay them.
Environmental crime has many faces and includes the illegal wildlife trade, illegal logging, illegal waste disposal and the illegal discharge of pollutants into the atmosphere, water or soil. It is a lucrative business for transnational crime networks. Illegal waste trafficking, for example, accounts for $10 to 12 billion (€10.28 to 12.34 billion) annually, according to 2016 figures from the United Nations Environment Program. Criminal networks save on the costs of proper disposal and obtaining permits. For some crime networks, the profits from waste management are so huge that it has become more interesting than drug trafficking…The profits from illegal logging have also grown…
According to the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol), environmental crime — the third most lucrative area of crime worldwide after drug trafficking and counterfeit goods — generates profits of between $110 billion and $280 billion each year.
Excerpts from Environmental crime: Profit can be higher than drug trade, DW, Oct. 16, 2022