Illegal Logging

News, information and statistics about illegal logging and the destruction of forests. Data about the illegal timber trade is collected from various wildlife charities, environmental protection agencies and other criminal justice information.

The Attorney General of Peru stated that $10 Billion in illicit funds was laundered in the country in 2012, double the estimated $5 Billion that was laundered in 2011.  The money laundering activity that takes place in Peru accounts for 3.5 percent of the country’s GDP.

(Additional money laundering techniques.)

One new black market crime that is contributing to the funds is extortion. Gangs in a northern city collected over $900,000 in extortion fees between 2012 and 2013 from 14,000 taxi drivers. The funds were deposited into 150 different bank accounts.

According to Insight Crime, other major black market activities in Peru including drug trafficking, which generates up to $1.2 Billion a year, and illegal logging, a $500 Million industry.

Source:  Marguerite Cawley, “Growth of Extortion a Major Concern for Peru: Official,” Insight Crime, October 31, 2013.

Based on satellite images from environmental agencies, Brazilian based NGO Imazon reports that 78 percent of logging that took place between August 2011 and July 2012 was illegal.

Nearly 122,337 hectares of rainforest in Brazil was illegally logged during the time frame. The amount of illegal logging that took place was 151 percent higher than the 48,802 hectares of rainforest that was illegally logged the year before.

During the year, 34,902  hectares of licensed, legal logging took place, which means that illegal logging cut down 3.5 times more timber than legal logging in Brazil.

Source:  Rhett A. Butler, “Illegal logging remains rampant in Brazil,” Mongbay, October 23, 2013.

The World Bank estimates that up to 80 percent of the timber that is exported from Peru has been cut down illegally. According to environmental protection officials, corruption and bribery by officials in Peru contribute to the illegal logging activities.

In a report by the New York Times, one prosecutor of environmental crimes was quoted as saying that he was offered a $5,000 bribe in order to stop an investigation.

(More examples of bribes to government officials.)

The illegal loggers were previously reported to make up to $72 Million a year in profits. A logger who cuts down a mahogany tree in Peru can make $1,700 selling the tree on the black market.

Source:  William Neuman and Andrea Zarte, “Corruption in Peru Aids Cutting of Rain Forest,” New York Times, October 18, 2013.


Organized crime syndicates in the Philippines reportedly pay loggers $344 (15,000 Philippine Pesos) per month to illegally cut down trees. The loggers must bring their own food and supplies and camps at the logging site.

According to criminal justice officials in the Philippines, there are around 20 syndicates that organize illegal logging activities in the country. The six main hot sports for the logging are in Bongabon, Carranglan, Gabaldon, Gen. Tinio, Laur and Pantabangan.

Source:  Ferdie G. Domingo, “Illegal loggers have financiers,” Manila Standard Today, August 2, 2013.

Half of the deforestation activities that took place in 9 forest reserves in Nigeria between 2010 and 2012 were due to marijuana cultivation.

According to a survey conducted by the Southwest/Niger Delta Forest Project, cannabis growers in the region can earn over 2 to 3 times more money that they would have earned though food crops.

(Price of marijuana around the world.)

Source:  Liz Kimbrough, “Illegal marijuana cultivation threatens Nigeria’s forests and chimps,”, July 26, 2013.

Between April 2011 and June 2013, environmental authorities seized over 69,600 tons of logs that were illegally logged, according to the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry.

Large portions of the illegally logged timber in Myanmar is transported to China.

Source:  “Myanmar’s authorities seize nearly 70K tons of illegal logs: ministry,” Eleven Myanmar, July 20, 2013.

Forest inspectors in the Arkhangelsk region of Russia conducted over 6,000 raids in 2012 and identified 359 illegal logging cases. The value of the illegal timber that was cut down was estimated to be worth $12 Million (410.5 Million Russian Rubles).

In order to avoid authorities, “black loggers” conduct their logging activities at night, where a single night of cutting down trees can yield up to 100,000 Rubles worth of timber.

The illegal loggers have been reported to offer bribes such as cases of vodka, and have also burned inspectors cars in order to intimidate them.

Source:  Lena Smirnova, “Profit Motive Helps and Hinders in Illegal Logging Battle,” Moscow Times, July 10, 2013.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that the value of logging traded out of East Asia and the Pacific that was unlicensed is worth $17 Billion. The amount of the illegal logging trade in the region makes up to 30 to 40 percent of all timber and wood products exported.

Source:  “Transnational Organized Crime in East Asia and the Pacific: A Threat Assessment,” UNODC, April 2013, Executive Summary, page viii.

An investigation by the WWF-Russia reports that half of the Mongolian oak that was cut down in Russia and shipped to China in 2010 was illegally logged. In 2007 and 2008, the illegal timber was four times as large as the legitimate trade.

In 2011, there were a reported 691 cases of illegal logging in Primorsky Province. 16 percent of the cases were brought to trial, the lowest level in 10 years.

Source:  “Russian forests and tigers left floored by illegal logging,” WWF, April 16, 2013.

Between 50 to 90 percent of logging activities in tropical countries are done by criminal organizations, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.

The areas where organized crime groups have a strong presence in the logging industry is in the Amazon basin, Central Africa and South East Asia.

Source:  Achim Steiner, “Opening Statement of the Executive Director of UNEP,” Sixteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, March 3, 2013.