Malaysia targeting corruption to fight environmental crimes

Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), 5 April 2016 - Too often environmental crimes and corruption are perceived as victimless crimes, but in reality they have far-reaching negative consequences for all of society, said senior officials at a national workshop held in Kuala Lumpur, where the need to address corruption in reducing environmental crime was underscored.

It is increasingly well recognized that corruption allows environmental crime to flourish in a variety of ways, including law enforcement officials being bribed to look away; forgery of logging and hunting licenses; and obstructing prosecutions and criminal justice processes in order to set environmental offenders free. Environmental crime is big business in Southeast Asia, where it generates almost one quarter of the region's estimated 90 billion USD per year in transnational organized crime.

The workshop focused on the corruption underpinning environmental crime, and brought together key agencies of Malaysia's environmental and criminal justice sectors for the first time to discuss current efforts and challenges in fighting corruption in the environmental sector, and solutions to strengthen integrity. The event was jointly organized by the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and UNODC. It included speakers and representatives from Police, Customs Administration and the Attorney General's Chamber.

"The trafficking of natural resources is becoming increasingly sophisticated, and must be considered a priority transnational organized crime," said Mr. Dato' Han Chee Rull, Deputy Commissioner of the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

UNODC proposed some preventive approaches to strengthen integrity in the sector, such as conducting corruption risk assessments in timber and wildlife supply chains, and developing mitigation strategies to counter the identified risks.

Both MACC and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment agreed that there was a strong need to improve interagency cooperation for inspections and investigations, and that the legal and regulatory frameworks need to be streamlined. The need for capacity development in addressing corruption within the various environmental protection agencies, as well as national institutions handling environmental issues at the central and local level, was also acknowledged.

"The agencies present at the meeting are supportive of developing a national strategy to prevent, investigate and prosecute corrupt practices connected to environmental crimes," said Giovanni Broussard from the UNODC Global Programme for Combatting Wildlife and Forest Crime. "This is an important first step. They have also agreed to explore ways to proceed in this direction, together with UNODC."

The event was supported by the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Bureau of the US State Department and it was hosted by the Malaysia Anti Corruption Academy.