The rise in so-called green crime damages livelihoods, communities and economies. But what is green crime and what is being done to combat it? Duncan Taylor, Infinity’s Compliance Officer, explains.
What is green crime?
The United Nations defines green crime, also known as environmental crime, as
“Illegal activities harming the environment and aimed at benefiting individuals or groups or companies from the exploitation of, damage to, trade or theft of natural resources, including serious crimes and transnational organized crime.”
This covers a whole gamut of unsavoury activities. Interpol divides these into four main groups:
- Fisheries crime – illegal fishing, using fishing vessels to traffic drugs and people
- Forestry crime – illegal logging, destruction of habitat, threatening the livelihoods of those reliant on forest resources
- Pollution crime – illegal disposal of waste, illicit trafficking in chemicals and carbon trading
- Wildlife crime – poaching, illegal trafficking of wildlife
In each case, criminal networks not only pose a threat to the environment and our security, by disrupting supply chains and hampering our ability to meet the UN sustainability goals which are integral to the planet’s survival, but also use the money gained from criminal activity to carry out financial crimes including money laundering and document fraud.
Some statistics on green crime
- FATF estimates that criminal gains from green crime total between US$110 and 281bn per year
- In the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report 2021, human environmental damage is listed as the third most significant risk behind extreme weather and climate action failure, up from 5th place in 2020.
- A 2016 report from the UN estimated that green crime cost the planet $258bn a year and with green crime rising at an estimated 5-7% per year, that figure will be significantly bigger now
What is being done about green crime?
Environmental crime is a global issue requiring global solutions. Having long taken a back seat to other criminal activities in the financial arena, such as counterfeiting and money laundering, it is now moving up the agenda. Both the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the European Union – via its 6th Anti Money Laundering Directive (AMLD 6) – are shining a spotlight on environmental crime because of the grave threat that it poses to financial institutions.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is another major actor in this field, managing numerous local, regional and global initiatives to counter environmental crime and Interpol operates a National Environmental Security Task Force (NEST) bringing together numerous different actors to coordinate international efforts.
Green crime and anti-money laundering policies
Criminal groups involved in environmental crime often need to launder money. Compliance officers worldwide have to be constantly on the lookout for red flags indicating that a client may be hiding their true identity and looking to wash ‘dirty’ money. These red flags include complicated Company ownership structures and cash or assets being relayed though numerous financial entities in an attempt to disguise the true nature or source of the monies.
As part of their Customer Due Diligence (CDD), financial companies will ask for evidence of your identity and also information regarding the source of funds. This is not simply to annoy you but it forms part of the Know Your Customer (KYC) process and is dictated by Anti-Money Laundering laws and regulatory guidelines.
Green crime has a variety of different forms and is a serious problem globally as it impacts on the livelihood of individuals, the safety of communities and even the economies of countries. We all need to play our part in thwarting the criminals and this can only be done by cooperation and collaboration in both the public and private sectors where organisations , regulators and the humble man in the street have a clear unified view of the future.
I have over 20 years of experience in the financial services industry and hold a Chartered FCSI qualification. I ensure that our operations are fully compliant with the rules of our most stringent regulators.