Newsbriefing – Week of 16 September

In a new report, Human Rights Watch documents the rising violence linked to illegal deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon. Over the past five years, 28 environmental enforcement agents and indigenous people opposed to illegal logging have been killed by organised crime groups who profit from deforestation. More than 300 people have been murdered in the last decade over land use in the Amazon.

Oil theft is an increasing phenomenon in Brazil, with 261 incidents in Sao Paulo in 2018 against just one in 2014. Sophisticated organised crime groups with trucks, distribution firms and even retail gas stations are robbing millions worth of dollars of fuel and selling it on the black market. The state-run oil firm Petrobras claims to be losing $37 million per year to this new type of crime.

The murder of a lawyer for a state witness in a major organised crime trial sparked outraged in the Netherlands. The prime minister called for a crackdown on organised crime. This comes as an influential police union recently labelled the country a “narco-state” and a report from the city of Amsterdam said the city unable to tackle drugs-related criminal activity.

Nigeria has become Africa’s main hub for the illegal pangolin trade with Asia. Porous borders, lax law enforcement, corruption and the continent’s biggest port have facilitated illicit wildlife trafficking in the country. Pangolins are especially prized in Asia and have become the world’s most trafficked animal. In 2019, 34 tonnes worth more than $100 million were seized in Hong-Kong and Singapore.

Liberia’s President Weah has signed into law the UN Convention Against Illicit Trafficking in Narcotics. It aims at promoting international cooperation in the fight against illicit drug trafficking. Under the convention, Liberia will have to adopt new legal measures.

Guatemala’s government announced the discovery of coca plantations and laboratories. Historically a transit country, the discovery hints cocaine production is moving beyond the Andean nations of Peru, Colombia and Bolivia. This comes as the government gave emergency powers to the military.

Interpol will hold its second global conference on drug trafficking in Cape Town, South Africa. The event will bring together 400 delegates from 194 countries to discuss strategies to fight the world drug trade, raise awareness on cryptocurrencies and the role played by the dark web as a marketplace for drugs and contraband. Africa tops the international policing agenda as the continent shifts from a place of transit to a destination for drugs.

The seizure of fake goods soar by 21% between 2017 and 2018 in the European Union. A total of 27 million counterfeit articles worth €740 million were seized over the 12-month period. Fake tobacco was the most seized item, accounting for 15% of all counterfeit products intercepted, followed by household items. The majority of fake goods seized in the EU came from China, North Macedonia, Cambodia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.