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Cablegate: U.S. Explores Environmental Crimes Cooperation with Russia

VZCZCXRO4644
RR RUEHIK
DE RUEHMO #2690/01 3031227
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 301227Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5233
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHC/DEPT OF INTERIOR WASHDC
RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE
RUEAEPA/HQ EPA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUCPDC/NOAA WASHDC
RHFJBRQ/NSF POLAR WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 002690

STATE FOR EUR/RUS, EUR/ACE, INL/AAE, OES/PCI, EUR/PGI, L/CA
DOJ FOR OPDAT/NEWCOMBE AND ALEXANDRE
DOJ ALSO FOR ENRD/MITCHELL AND WEBB
AIDAC STATE FOR USAID/E&E
INTERIOR FOR KIM MAGRAW
INTERIOR PLEASE PASS TO NPS, FWS, AND USGS
FWS FOR STEVE KOHL, JANET HOHN, GEOFF HASKETT
NPS FOR SUE MASICA
NOAA FOR RENEE TATUSKO
OSTP FOR JOAN ROLF

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: SENV KCRM KJUS PGOV PHUM PREL CH RS

SUBJECT: U.S. EXPLORES ENVIRONMENTAL CRIMES COOPERATION WITH RUSSIA

REFS: A. MOSCOW 2366, B. Vladivostok 5

MOSCOW 00002690 001.2 OF 003


SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED, NOT FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Two conferences organized the week of October 2
in Vladivostok and Moscow highlighted both the importance of and
challenges to increasing U.S.-Russian cooperation on environmental
crimes. A 2007 prosecution of an Amcit for illegal hunting in
Kamchatka failed in part because of DOJ's inability to obtain needed
expert testimony from Russia refuting the defendant's claims that he
was licensed to hunt the animals in question. Environmental
enforcement in Russia has taken on even greater significance for the
U.S. as a result of 2008 amendments to the Lacey Act which
criminalized, among other things, the importation, sale and
distribution of plants and timber obtained in violation of foreign
law. Given the extent of illegal timber harvesting in the Russian
Far East, the new legislation presents an opportunity for the U.S.
to contribute to the protection of Russia's forests, which have been
depleted by illegal logging. However, successful prosecutions will
require proving that the initial harvesting was illegal under
Russian law, which will, in turn, require much more effective
U.S.-Russian cooperation in the area of environmental enforcement.
The conferences left the clear impression that Russia's enforcement
program is plagued by staggering corruption and inefficiency. A
bright spot, though, was the positive experience of some Russian
NGOs in cooperating with law enforcement. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) During the week of October 20, Post's Law Enforcement Section
(LES), together with the World Wildlife Fund Russia (WWF) and the
Vladivostok Transnational Crime and Corruption Center (TRACC),
organized a conference in Vladivostok on environmental crime and
enforcement. The conference was attended by approximately 60
Russian participants, including law enforcement and government
officials, NGO activists, academic experts and researchers and
private lawyers. U.S. participants included two prosecutors from
DOJ's Environmental Crimes Section, a Special Agent from the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service, an expert from the U.S. Forest Service,
Vladivostok CG and Poleconoff, and both Embassy Resident Legal
Advisors. This was followed by a session in the Public Chamber in
Moscow attended by representatives of various Russian NGOs and two
representatives from the General Prosecutor's Office.

--------------------------------------------- ----
Few Prosecutions Thanks to the "Ecomafia" at Work
--------------------------------------------- ----

3. (SBU) According to almost all the Russian experts at the
Vladivostok conference, Russian environmental enforcement is
hopelessly corrupt, and the future for Russia's forests and
endangered species bleak. According to research presented by
Gennady Zherebkin, a former prosecutor now with WWF, between 2000
and 2008 Russian law enforcement opened 5,618 criminal prosecutions
against a total of 6,070 people for environmental violations.
(Note: Illegal logging cases accounted for 4431, or 79 percent, of
these. Illegal fishing accounted for 15 percent, while illegal
hunting accounted for another 3 percent. End Note.) While these
numbers may appear significant, according to Zherebkin, the majority
of the cases (62 percent) were terminated before trial, an
astonishing figure given that opening a criminal case under Russian
law requires substantial evidence and that investigators can suffer
adverse consequences for failing to successfully complete a case
once opened.

4. (SBU) Moreover, according to Zherebkin and others, many of the
cases that were sent to court were dismissed in court or resulted in
minor sentences. For example, Zherebkin mentioned one case of
illegal whaling dismissed by the judge on the grounds that the crime
was "insignificant" and said that such occurrences were common.

MOSCOW 00002690 002.2 OF 003


Another participant told us about a case involving a corrupt
government inspector who was convicted and then sentenced to
corrective labor at his job, an absurd result amounting to no
sentence. There seems to be little doubt that such poor enforcement
is the result of organized crime and corruption. As Professor
Vitaliy Nomokonov, the head of the Vladivostok TRACC, told us, the
high percentage of terminated cases shows "the mafia at work."
Another expert from TRACC, Oleg Khrenkov, surveyed 100 environmental
experts from the Russian Far East and found that 54 percent
considered corruption to be the main reason for poor environmental
enforcement in the Russian Far East.

5. (SBU) Privately, Russian experts provided us with numerous
examples illustrating these conclusions. Several told us of honest
environmental inspectors being threatened, killed, and having their
houses burned down for pursuing cases. Others told us of
sophisticated counter-surveillance techniques used by criminals
including employing lookouts to watch for timber inspectors and warn
loggers so that they disperse ahead of the inspections. One told us
about how the fishing mafia uses GPS blocking systems to ensure that
vessels involved in illegal fishing cannot be tracked by
investigators. Several told us that the illegal traffic in plants
and wildlife is supported by high government officials, and two
mentioned that the son of a Presidential Representative is one of
those protecting the trade. Others said that the corruption is so
widespread that it is impossible to combat. For example, one
participant told us about a local official who, when informed that
his inspectors were taking bribes from illegal loggers, addressed
the problem by forbidding the inspectors from having any contact
with the loggers and to simply let them pass without any
inspection.

6. (SBU) In addition to corruption, the conference highlighted other
enforcement problems. For example, 71 percent of the experts
surveyed by Khrenkov identified "insufficient legal and
material-technical support" as the main cause of poor environmental
enforcement. Specific problems include: the lack of an adequate log
tracking system, making it impossible for inspectors to determine
whether timber has come from a protected or an unprotected area;
overlapping and conflicting responsibilities of different
enforcement agencies; constant administrative reorganizations,
resulting in a lack of institutional knowledge; a collective "brain
drain"; poorly drafted and inadequate regulations; low salaries for
enforcement officials; and lack of equipment and training for law
enforcement agencies.

--------------------------------------------- -----
NGO Cooperation with Law Enforcement A Bright Spot
--------------------------------------------- -----

7. (SBU) However, there were some bright spots. For example,
several NGO representatives said that they had been able to work
successfully with some law enforcement officials. Zherebkin said
that when WWF investigators compiled evidence of illegal logging and
hunting, presented it to law enforcement officials, and followed the
cases through the legal system, they had been able to ensure
successful prosecutions. Another WWF official told us of successful
training programs conducted by WWF for fishing and hunting
inspectors, though he noted that the forest inspectors are too
corrupt and will not even attend joint conferences without being
bribed to do so.

-------------------------
Public Chamber Roundtable
-------------------------

8. (SBU) The Vladivostok program was followed by a roundtable at the
Public Chamber on October 23 attended by a variety of Russian
experts, NGO representatives, and two representatives of the General

MOSCOW 00002690 003.2 OF 003


Procuracy. The picture that emerged was largely similar to that
presented in Vladivostok. Russia Greenpeace director Ivan Blokov
said that the logging enforcement situation is even worse than
indicated by Zherebkin's statistics and pointed out that virtually
all timber exports are technically illegal absent regional forest
plans and regulations, which can be adopted only after appropriate
environmental impact studies, which have not been conducted in most
relevant regions. U.S. experts then presented a series of specific
recommendations, including developing environmental whistleblower
statutes and an environmental crimes hotline and improving legal
mechanisms for bringing civil actions independent of criminal cases.
These were received with great interest and have already been
distributed to appropriate Russian contacts.

9. (SBU) Comment: While the general picture is bleak, the newly
formed Bilateral Presidential Commission's Environmental Working
Group and the Lacey Act amendments provide an opportunity to draw
increased international attention to environmental protection in
Russia. Moreover, the positive experience of WWF suggests that U.S.
support for such programs is worthwhile and should be continued.
Continued support for USAID-funded U.S. Forest Service programs
focused on developing a log tracking system is essential if Russia
is to be a partner in Lacey Act enforcement. Given that timber
harvested illegally in the Russian Far East typically passes through
China on its way to the U.S., effective Lacey Act enforcement will
require close operational cooperation between U.S., Russian and
Chinese law enforcement. One possible next step is to explore the
possibility of forming a trilateral law enforcement working group.
Given the extent of law enforcement corruption, supporting the
efforts of private attorneys to bring environmental suits also
appears worthwhile, and Post will explore the possibility of a
seminar on private environmental litigation.

10. (SBU) Comment, continued: A third option is to explore further
diplomatic efforts to follow up on the St. Petersburg Ministerial
Declaration made during the 2005 Europe and North Asia Forest Law
Enforcement and Governance conference (ENA FLEG), in which 44
governments, including Russia and the United States, expressed their
intent to take action to improve forest governance and combat
illegal logging and associated forest crimes. The Declaration
included an Indicative List of Actions to implement the declaration
and called for a second Ministerial within five years to assess
progress and decide on further actions. The Indicative List
includes national-level actions, including on policy framework,
legislation systems, institutions, sustainable forest management,
and rural development, as well as international initiatives, such as
forest-related policies, trade and customs, and collaborative
implementation.

11. (U) Post expresses its gratitude to Consulate General
Vladivostok, DOJ/ECS, USFWS, and USFS for their outstanding
participation in this program. Vladivostok CG Tom Armbruster
cleared this cable.

BEYRLE

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