Organised Crime and Illegal Logging Enforcement: Workshop for LEAs and CSOs to Explore Solutions

May 28, 2024

On May 23-24, the EU Advisory Mission (EUAM) Ukraine organised a workshop in Truskavets that brought together law enforcers and civil society representatives from the Zakarpattia, Ivano-Frankivsk, Volyn, and Lviv regions to focus on effective strategies to combat organised crime and corruption. The event specifically addressed criminal activities in the forestry sector, highlighting the crucial roles of Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and the media in uncovering corruption within state agencies, exposing manipulation in wood auctions, and addressing deficiencies in tracing the origins of timber.

Organised crime and corruption present numerous challenges, and investigating illegal logging is no exception. Endemic corruption, fragmented forest management structures, unclear jurisdictional boundaries for LEAs, and well-organised criminal networks are all involved. “The convergence of illegal logging with other organised crime activities, such as money laundering and illegal trafficking and smuggling, further complicates the enforcement landscape and makes it imperative to adopt a multi-faceted approach,” says Bart Scheffers, EUAM Adviser on Good Governance from the Mission’s Lviv Field Office.

In this context, the two-day workshop aimed to discuss the best ways to manage cases of illegal logging under such challenging circumstances. Topics included improving the identification and prosecution of illegal logging activities and ensuring that LEAs, CSOs, and the media have the resources and knowledge to handle these complex investigations. 

Moreover, participants engaged in group work and debated whether implementing a unified electronic timber accounting system would resolve some of the current loopholes. In this context, participants learned about EU good practices, such as the Romanian Sumal system. Additionally, viewing these crimes from a criminal perspective (rather than as administrative offences) was presented, emphasising the necessity for more covert investigations and better means of interagency coordination.

Deputy Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Law Enforcement, Maksym Pavliuk, updated the participants on draft laws amending the Criminal Code of Ukraine to address the illegal trafficking of wood and welcomed input from the audience. This provided an opportunity for participants to understand and contribute to ongoing legislative efforts aimed at curbing illegal logging.

Participants were very satisfied with the exchange, noting that the discussions were incredibly insightful and the atmosphere was highly collaborative. “I enjoyed the very fruitful interaction between law enforcement, prosecutors, media, and CSOs. It was an excellent opportunity to share experiences and learn from each other,” said one of them.

This workshop is another testament to the EUAM’s constant commitment to supporting Ukrainian partners in fighting organised crime and corruption.