KATHMANDU, Nepal, 20th January, 2017 (WAM) — INTERPOL has launched a new project to identify and dismantle organised crime networks that make billions through illegal wildlife trade between Africa and Asia.

Targeting high-profile illegal traders in Asia who source wildlife products from Africa, the project will provide a strengthened law enforcement response in source, transit and destination countries, particularly those linked to illicit trade in ivory, rhinoceros horn and Asian big cat products.

With environmental crimes estimated to be worth up to USD258 billion and linked to other criminal activities, including corruption, money laundering and firearms trafficking, the project led by INTERPOL’s Environmental Security Programme will draw on the expertise of other specialised units.

These include the Anti-Corruption and Financial crime unit, the Digital Forensics Lab for data extraction from seized equipment, the Firearms Programme for weapon tracing and ballistics analyses and the Fugitive Investigations unit to assist the countries in locating and arresting wanted environmental criminals.

INTERPOL Secretary-General Jurgen Stock said the project embodied the added value of INTERPOL to help countries more effectively target specific crime threats.

“Protecting the world’s wildlife heritage is our collective responsibility, as global citizens and as international law enforcement. It is essential that decisive action is taken to combat environmental crime and this project targeting the organised crime links between Africa and Asia will enable all involved actors to unite in their efforts, and provide a blueprint for future actions elsewhere in the world,” Stock said.

A recent INTERPOL-UN environment report showed 80 percent of the countries consider environmental crime a national priority, with the majority saying new and more sophisticated criminal activities increasingly threaten peace and security.