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Viet Nam prioritizes effective prosecution of wildlife and timber Crimes

Hanoi (Viet Nam), 20 June 2016 - Twenty-four Vietnamese prosecutors from the North of Vietnam attended UNODC's "Prosecutor's Workshop on Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) in Wildlife and Timber Crime Cases", in a continuing push to enhance prosecution of such crimes.

Transnational Organized Crime is worth over 90 billion USD in South East Asia alone. A significant proportion of this is derived from wildlife and environmental crimes. "Environmental crimes are attractive to crime syndicates because of the low risk of prosecution and minimal penalties", said Mr. Mark Romley, a Federal Prosecutor with the Environmental Crimes Section of the United States Department of Justice. "Not only are environmental crimes destructive in their own right, but their proceeds are an easy way for organized crime groups to fund other crimes, including drug trafficking and terrorism."

In Viet Nam, the challenges of environmental crimes are daunting, as it is an origin, transit, and destination country. Border police and customs are seizing more illegal shipments, but successful prosecutions are proving elusive.

Challenges in evidence collection and preservation, cross border cooperation, and an overall lack of a capacity all impede regional and national efforts to stop wildlife and timber crime. Smuggling and trafficking of wildlife and timber are causing significant loss to the state and society, according to Mr. Nguyen Van Thang, Deputy Director of the Personnel Department, Supreme People's Procuracy. "The Supreme People's Procuracy is looking forward to working with UNODC to organize specialized training for prosecutors", he said.

Experts, including UNODC law enforcement trainer Mr. Robert Burkes, trained participates on best practices for gathering and handling evidence, and emphasized the importance of ongoing communication between law enforcement and prosecutors in case management, and ultimately, successful prosecutions.

Also discussed were strategies for cross-jurisdictional communication, including formal and informal channels, and Viet Nam's new penal code. "[The Supreme People's Procuracy] already has all of the knowledge and experience it needs to combat wildlife crime", said Mr. Romley. "All you need is to do is work with each other."

Mr. Nguyen Van Dzung, Manager of Section 3, Department for Prosecution of Economic Cases, Supreme People's Procuracy, gave an overview of the new penal provisions relating to TOC and wildlife and timber crime, and shared some of the challenges he has faced in prosecuting wildlife crime in Viet Nam.

In addition, mock provided participants an opportunity for mentorship and the sharing of best practices; and to apply what they had learned in a practical exercise.

The workshop was part of a concerted strategy to improve cooperation among prosecutors in different jurisdictions, and also among law enforcement and prosecutors. Similar workshops have also been held in Myanmar, Lao PDR, Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines.

Click here to learn more about UNODC's Global Programme on Combating Forest and Wildlife Crime.