Table of Contents

Handbook of Transnational Environmental Crime

Handbook of Transnational Environmental Crime

Edited by Lorraine Elliott and William H. Schaedla

Crimes associated with the illegal trade in wildlife, timber and fish stocks, pollutants and waste have become increasingly transnational, organized and serious. They warrant attention because of their environmental consequences, their human toll, their impacts on the rule of law and good governance, and their links with violence, corruption and a range of crossover crimes. This ground-breaking, multi-disciplinary Handbook brings together leading scholars and practitioners to examine key sectors in transnational environmental crime and to explore its most significant conceptual, operational and enforcement challenges.

Chapter 19: Forensics in transnational environmental crime

Rob Ogden

Subjects: environment, environmental law, law - academic, environmental law, politics and public policy, international relations


Scientific analysis of evidence items to investigate crime, otherwise known as forensic science, has a long history in law enforcement, dating back to the nineteenth century. However, with the development of increasingly sophisticated chemical and biological analyses, the past 30 years have seen forensic science expand rapidly from limited use in high-profile investigations in a few countries, to use in almost all types of criminal investigation at an international scale. Transnational environmental crime (TEC) investigation, itself an emerging area of law enforcement, has started to benefit from such techniques. Here we introduce how forensic science can be applied to TEC investigation through both existing analytical methods and via the development of more specialist forensic tools. In 2009, a UK customs officer intercepted an unusual looking ‘antique’ object being carried through Manchester airport by a passenger en route to China. An X-ray of the antique revealed what appeared to be two horn-shaped items hidden inside; this led to the antique being broken open and the horns recovered. International trade in rhinoceros products is controlled by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and unauthorized movement is illegal under European law. The potential smuggler was caught red-handed, but could it be proved he was carrying rhino horn and if so, where did it come from? The subsequent forensic investigation used state-of-the-art DNA techniques and a collaborative analysis involving scientists in the UK and South Africa to demonstrate that the horns were from an African white rhino and had in fact originated from a specific individual recently deceased at a UK zoo. This evidence was used to piece together the crime, successfully prosecute the smuggler and provide intelligence to a wider investigation into the international rhino horn trade in Europe. This example highlights both the power of modern forensic science, and also the specialist forensic requirements of TEC investigation that are the subject of this chapter.

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