Washington, DC - On October 12, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Quito participated in a regional investigative and analytical working group on forestry crime in the Andean region through INTERPOL’s Project Leaf (Law Enforcement Assistance for Forests).

Illicit timber trade originating from or transiting through the Andean region represents a significant law enforcement issue. With much of the timber bound for processing plants and consumer markets in Mexico and the United States, INTERPOL’s Project Leaf has been working to strengthen law enforcement responses in the region through increased intelligence sharing and support for transnational investigations.

The meeting brought together law enforcement officials from four countries in the Andean region: Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, with additional participation from the United States. Gathering practicing officers from the forestry sector, legal units supporting the forestry sector, law enforcement, anti-corruption and forest crime investigative units, and officers from INTERPOL’s National Central Bureaus of the participating countries, the meeting provided a platform for sharing and exchanging forestry crime information and intelligence.

Participants discussed challenges and strategies when investigating these crimes which involve financial flows worth millions of dollars each year. HSI Quito delivered a presentation on HSI’s wildlife program and a case study on a recent HSI illegal timber investigation of a major U.S.-based retail flooring company conducted by HSI in the United States.

Through these meetings, which are supported by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, INTERPOL’s Project Leaf is helping develop regional networks of specialized forestry law enforcement investigators, and ensuring regular communication and sharing of intelligence on transnational cases.

Through its International Operations, HSI has 63 operational attaché offices in 47 countries around the world.  HSI Special Agents work closely with foreign law enforcement agencies on dismantling transnational criminal organizations through their use of illicit trade, travel and finance.