International Training Targets Criminal Networks involved in Illegal Blood Wood (Rosewood) Trade

Dr. John Hermanson helps Rosewood Special Investigation Group (SIG) participants learn how to use the XyloTron to accurately identify different kinds of wood.

BANGKOK, May 29, 2015 – Law enforcement officers, forensic experts, prosecutors and anti-money laundering specialists from Southeast Asia, South Asia, China and the Americas are now better equipped to combat rosewood (Dalbergia) trafficking.

After undergoing a joint training and planning exercise at the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Bangkok, Thailand, the participants are better prepared  to share information and organize cooperative investigation efforts in order to combat the international illegal organized criminal trade involving the trafficking of CITES Appendix I protected timber, rosewood and other species.

Twenty-five law enforcement investigators including customs, police, forestry officers and prosecutors attended the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN) mandated DETECT Rosewood Special Investigation Group (SIG) from May 25-29, 2015. Investigators, scientists and anti-money laundering specialists from World Customs Organization, Thailand, Lao PDR, Vietnam, Indonesia, India, Cambodia, Malaysia and the U.S. shared information about criminal groups and the most successful investigation methods. The U.S.-supported training helped increase the capacity of the officers to share best practices across continents in order to target illicit networks engaged in this highly profitable organized crime.

This first-ever Rosewood SIG focused on the illegal international trade in CITES protected rosewood by presenting the group with cutting-edge investigation techniques to detect ongoing rosewood trafficking between source, transit and consumer countries. Participants discussed common smuggling routes, smuggling methodologies and concealment methods for CITES protected timber being smuggled to destinations such as China from other parts of Asia and as far away as Brazil.

Rosewood, which is sometimes referred to as “blood wood” due to the number of law enforcement officials and poachers being killed in the forests over this precious resource, is a desired luxury wood used for furniture in China. A cubic meter of this endangered luxury wood can fetch up to $90,000.

Organized criminal syndicates, behind the illicit timber trade, are taking advantage of porous borders, weak laws and understaffed law enforcement in the area to profit from the exploitation of rare and protected timber. The training was also designed to improve enforcement collaboration between the countries and members ASEAN-WEN, South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN), World Customs Organization, Interpol, the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

ASEAN-WEN implemented the SIG with assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funded Asia’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking (ARREST) Program.  Coordinated by the counter-trafficking organization, Freeland, ARREST is the U.S. government’s largest counter wildlife trafficking initiative outside the United States that aims to protect the rich wildlife and biodiversity of Southeast Asia.

The course was also sponsored by and conducted jointly with the U.S. government as part of its efforts to help reduce timber crime around the world by increasing the effectiveness of law enforcement in detecting, investigating, apprehending and prosecuting leaders and organizers of syndicates trafficking in protected wildlife.  The U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Department of Justice also provided technical support to the SIG.