Logging a $15B Racket for Organized Crime

World Bank says illegal forest operations are big business

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 21, 2012 2:46 PM CDT

(Newser) – Ah, those classic gangster rackets: drugs, prostitution, gambling, and, of course, wood. Illegal logging has become a major endeavor for organized crime, raking in as much as $15 billion a year, according to a new report from the World Bank. Scofflaws with chainsaws are running wild in places such as Indonesia, Madagascar, and West Africa, the report says, estimating that a soccer field-sized chunk of forest is cleared every second.

"We need to fight organized crime in illegal logging the way we go after gangsters selling drugs or racketeering," says one World Bank official, according to the BBC. "Most forest crimes go undetected, unreported, or are ignored," the report says. It urges Western nations to stop buying illegal lumber—the US, for instance, passed a law three years ago requiring companies to prove their wood is legally sourced. Some companies are already being investigated under the law, including Gibson Guitar.

Cut trees are pictured in central Greece on January 9, 2012. Illegal logging has taken on epidemic proportions, according to reports from forestry services.
Cut trees are pictured in central Greece on January 9, 2012. Illegal logging has taken on epidemic proportions, according to reports from forestry services.   (Getty Images)
In this photo taken Nov. 5, 2010, a Mexico State police officer, looking for illegal logging, patrols on a vehicle at the forest in San Juan Xoconusco, Mexico.
In this photo taken Nov. 5, 2010, a Mexico State police officer, looking for illegal logging, patrols on a vehicle at the forest in San Juan Xoconusco, Mexico.   (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)
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