Interpol, the world’s largest police organization, recently launched a Most Wanted List of environmental fugitives. Already, two suspected bad guys have been caught.
The groundbreaking public appeal is the first time ever that Interpol is asking the public to assist in the capture of environmental crime fugitives, and comes from Interpol’s new Operation Infra Terra.
Launched in October 2014, Infra (which stands for “International Fugitive Round Up and Arrest”) Terra focuses on 139 fugitives altogether wanted by 36 member countries for crimes including illegal fishing, wildlife trafficking, trade and disposal of waste, logging and trading in illicit ivory.
Of the top nine suspects on Interpol’s list of “environmental criminals,” suspected organized crime boss and elephant ivory smuggling ‘kingpin’ Feisal Mohamed Ali was arrested in Tanzania following publication of the list.
He’s the second of nine such criminals to have been arrested since Interpol’s most wanted list circulated, the first being Zambian national Ben Simasiku, who was arrested on charges of possessing ivory from Botswana, after the public appeal was circulated.
On the initial most wanted list are: Adriano Giacobone, Ahmed Kamran, Ariel Bustamante Sanchez, Ben Simasiku, Bhekumusa Mawillis Shiba, Nicolaas Duindam, Sudiman Sunoto, Sergey Darminov and Feisal Mohamed Ali.
2 down, 7 to go! Or 137 for the whole lot of them.
Having a publicly circulated list dedicated to the capture of environmental fugitives is big news, because it shows that international law enforcement is not only acknowledging the seriousness of environmental crimes, but it’s also taking action to stop perpetrators and enlisting the public’s help in doing so.
Interpol, which stands for International Criminal Police Organization, has 190 member countries. It aims to facilitate international cooperation even where diplomatic relations do not exist between particular countries.
A long timing coming, Infra Terra is the first Interpol operation targeting individuals specifically wanted for crimes concerning the environment.
The Infra Terra program falls under Interpol’s “Turn Back Crime” global awareness campaign, which emphasizes the public’s involvement in tracking down known fugitives, so anyone with information about the possible location of the targets of Operation Infra Terra can (anonymously) send it directly to Interpol’s Fugitive Investigative Support unit or give to any national Crime Stoppers programme.
For the record, here’s Interpol’s take on environmental crime:
- It is a serious and growing international problem, and one which takes many different forms;
- It is not restricted by borders;
- It can affect a nation’s economy, security and even its existence.
Interpol gets that a significant proportion of both wildlife and pollution crime is carried out by organized criminal networks, drawn by the low risk and high profit nature of these types of crime.
Ioannis Kokkinis, Criminal Intelligence Officer with Interpol’s Fugitive Investigative Support unit which is coordinating Infra Terra, explains:
Even the smallest detail, which you might think is insignificant, has the potential to break a case wide open when combined with other evidence the police already have. Sometimes all it takes is a fresh pair of eyes to bring new momentum to an investigation and provide the missing clue which will help locate these wanted individuals, some of whom have been evading justice for years.
As Interpol describes, “the initial phase of operation Infra Terra saw investigators from 21 of the participating countries gather at the Interpol General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon, France to directly share information on suspects.”
Andreas Andreou, Criminal Intelligence Officer with Interpol’s Environmental Security unit, said “We are pleased that our member countries are coming together through Infra Terra to fight environmental crimes, as well as to raise global awareness of the very real dangers posed by these types of crimes and the individuals who perpetrate them.”
Stefano Carvelli, Head of Interpol’s Fugitive Investigative Support unit, believes that, “The capture of these criminals on the run will contribute to the dismantlement of transnational organized crime groups who have turned environmental exploitation into a professional business with lucrative revenues.”
For the planet and its animal inhabitants, let’s hope he’s right.
As Prince William recently revealed in a speech about wildlife trafficking, “some endangered species are now literally worth more than their weight in gold, which makes it even harder for governments and international bodies to counter this trade.”
Hopefully Infra Terra will make it that much easier then to achieve the difficult task of tracking down illegal wildlife traders and chipping away at organized, international operations of this nature.
Of course in a perfect world, there would be no need for a most wanted list to help track down environmental fugitives on the lam. But alas, that’s not the world we live, so if you have information that could lead to the apprehension of a known environmental criminal, go here.