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UNODC releases a new study on the response to wildlife and forest crimes in Lao PDR

Vientiane (Lao PDR), 10 October 2014 - "Despite the visibly organized and transnational nature of crimes such as illegal timber trade and wildlife trafficking, the key offenders enjoy a high level of impunity also because of their links to corrupt officials," stated the Deputy Prosecutor General of Lao PDR during a national consultation on criminal justice responses to wildlife and forest crime held in Vientiane, Lao PDR, on 23 September 2014.

Facilitated and chaired by the Office of the Supreme People's Prosecution (OSPP), the consultation offered an opportunity to all relevant departments of the Government to discuss their respective role in the fight against wildlife and forest crimes. The consultation brought together key representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the Ministry of Public Security and the Supreme Court. The discussions were also observed by the World Bank, the European Union Delegation, the British Embassy, the German Embassy, GIZ and WWF.

During the discussions, the Deputy Prosecutor General of Lao PDR also stressed that the number of cases related to environmental crimes that are brought to justice is still very limited.

Wildlife and forest crimes are driven by a growing and wealthy demand for rare species and the illegal trade is coordinated by highly organized controllers. Nonetheless the offenders who are generally brought to justice are low-level players employed in the business of logging, poaching and transporting. In order to address wealthy controllers of transnational criminal networks, resources urgently need to be shifted towards the development of investigative capacity focused on anti-corruption and anti-money laundering.

As follow-up to this consultation, UNODC releases today the findings in the Assessment on the criminal justice response to wildlife and forest crime in Lao PDR.

This UNODC study highlights that some progress to tackle wildlife and forest crimes has been made in Lao PDR. However, the capacity to conduct investigations on the most serious and transnational offences remain remarkably low. Some factors impeding successful investigation, as identified in the study, include blurred definitions of the main offences, limited investigative capacity and poor coordination among law enforcement agencies.

In addition, UNODC is working with the Government of Lao PDR to implement some of the key recommendations discussed.
The national consultation and the report were supported by the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Bureau of the US Department of State.