INTERPOL Issues First-Ever Purple Notice on Illegal Timber Trade

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Hugh Paxton’s Blog has yet more from INTERPOL. These latest Red Sandalwood timber smugglers strike me as total dunderheads. Why try shipping to Hong Kong from India via London Heathrow? No airport is 100 percent secure but Heathrow is tough turf for illegals. Anybody with a functioning brainstem would have routed the wood through SE Asia. Not that I’m suggesting they do.

BLOG ED NOTE: They already are.

HUGH: Yes. I know. Pray let me continue! I’m not sure why INTERPOL opted for purple for their Purple Notice. Green would be the most obvious decision. But, upon reflection, purple works. Green is a colour I love but perhaps it is a bit over used when it comes to eco-related issues. And rather friendly. And weak.

Purple is angry and eye grabbing. And has Roman Empire authority.

I think I would have gone for shocking scarlet. And a skull and crossbones (the skull being an angry looking Earth and the crossbones being trees).

BLOG ED NOTE: When INTERPOL wants you to design their next logo I’m sure they won’t ask you. They are an international law enforcement agency, not a punk rock band or Sea Shepard.

HUGH: Yes. My INTERPOL design career is probably a non-starter. But a man can dream! I ramble.

BLOG ED NOTE: Nothing new there.

HUGH: Belt up! It’s my blog! And I may ramble at will! The intriguing point about this Purple Notice is the focus on criminal methodology. The most foolish smuggler I’ve seen was a Chinese guy. Fat, disheveled, smoking, wearing silly flip flops and wandering towards Hosea Kutako Intl Airport’s Departures holding his carry on. It was wrapped in pages of The Namibian newspaper and was, despite its cunning disguise, shaped like a juvenile elephant tusk. Or to be precise was shaped EXACTLY like a juvenile elephant’s tusk. Namibia’s international airport has plenty of No Smoking signs but that doesn’t stop anyone from smoking. The dismal, slovenly little Oriental freak wasn’t about to be busted for nicotine addiction and creating a second hand health hazard. But his carry on? I watched him find his point of exit. I was appalled. He made it through (you can do that in Hosea Kutako if the staff are sharing a joke or flirting) and waddled into the waiting area. He was on a flight to Joburg. “They’ll get him there,” I thought. “Or maybe not.”

Final destination? Hong Kong. “They’ll definitely get him there.”

Did they get him? I have no idea. A one tusk arrest doesn’t merit international news.

But if nobody got him there is no hope. I’d like to think of him in an African prison sharing a cell with five gay serial rapists. And a cannibal with a fondness for Chinese food.

Back to methodology. The smuggler’s mind. How to shift illegal wildlife products from country to country without being detected? Some fools fill their underpants with frogs, or in one excruciating case slow loris which are equipped with a deliberately poisonous bite making them unique among mammals. A lot of endangered species products are bulky. Tiger skins, logs. Check the INTERPOL site and if you do see something overtly suspicious join the fight. Get in touch with INTERPOL.

Wildlife and Forest crime may seem a world away. It isn’t. It could be happening right next to you as you work in a coffee shop in Manchester airport or wait in line for your holiday in Majorca or browse a gift shop in Ghana.

Let’s stop it!

Enough yak from me.

From: INTERPOL Environmental Security Sub-Directorate [mailto:environmentalcrime@interpol.int]
Sent: Friday, July 04, 2014 3:48 AM
To: paxton.bkk@gmail.com
Subject: INTERPOL Issues First-Ever Purple Notice on Illegal Timber Trade

Dear Colleagues,

Please find below a brief summary of a recent environmental security activity. For more information on this or other initiatives, please do not hesitate to contact us at environmentalcrime.

Best regards,

INTERPOL Issues First-Ever Purple Notice on Illegal Timber Trade

Red Sandalwood seized at Heathrow Airport, United Kingdom

LYON, France – An INTERPOL Purple Notice, which provides information on modus operandi, objects, devices or concealment methods used by criminals, has been issued to inform member countries of illegal timber concealment methods. This notice came as a result of close cooperation between the INTERPOL General Secretariat, INTERPOL National Central Bureau (NCB) in Manchester and the UK Border Force.

Two shipments of Red Sandalwood (Pterocarpus santalinus), a protected timber species, were seized and examined by the UK Border Force National CITES Team Officers at London Heathrow Airport. They were confiscated while in transit from New Delhi, India to Hong Kong via London Heathrow Airport. The Red Sandalwood was hidden in rugs and hessian sacks, then falsely declared as handicrafts or pieces of carpet. The seizure totaled 60 packages of concealed illegal timber, weighing a total of 1,810 Kg.

Similar offences occurred between December 2012 and July 2013 when a total of 34 shipments containing suspected illegal timber were seized. All were transported by the same freight agent and exported and imported by the same companies. The UK Border Force alerted INTERPOL NCB Manchester, who requested that a Purple Notice be issued to alert other member countries of the illegal activities, the modus operandi used, and the companies involved.

“The INTERPOL General Secretariat acknowledges the United Kingdom Border Force for their efforts in confiscating suspected illegal timber shipments of Red Sandalwood, and NCB Manchester for using INTERPOL tools and assistance to notify the global law enforcement community and raise awareness of this emerging threat,” said David Higgins, head of INTERPOL’s Environmental Security unit.

The United Kingdom and the INTERPOL General Secretariat are seeking data on the location and activities of exporters and importers who operate in the transnational trade of illegal timber. “Improved communications and increased sharing of information between countries boost law enforcement capacity to identify more criminals and new criminal techniques in a faster way,” NCB Manchester added.

Red Sandalwood, native to India, is one of the most commercially valuable timbers in the world, and is used for extraction of dye, medicine and cosmetics. This timber species is listed as Endangered by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) due to overexploitation, and is listed under CITES Appendix II, making its international trade illegal without proper permits. No CITES documents were available for the two confiscated shipments.

The Purple Notice was issued under the umbrella of INTERPOL’s Project Leaf (Law Enforcement Assistance for Forests), a global initiative to combat illegal logging, a crime type that is estimated to cost the global economy between USD 30 and 100 billion, and is linked to other forms of organized and transnational crimes.

To unsubscribe from the INTERPOL Environmental Security news feed, please contact us at environmentalcrime.

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