Speaking at the recent Chatham House Illegal Logging Update in London, Davyth Stewart of Interpol’s Environmental Crime Programme said there was considerable scope for CAs, the national bodies charged with policing the EUTR, to benefit from his organisation’s expertise and intelligence gathering.

“Under our Project Leaf operation, run since 2012 with the UN Environment Programme, we’ve been working with enforcement agencies in producer countries to increase their effectiveness against illegal loggers,” he said. “CAs would benefit from closer links with these bodies and we can help facilitate that.”

Interpol is also offering training to CA personnel.

“In fact we’re running a workshop for all of them where we can compare experiences in implementing the EUTR,” said Mr Stewart.

Several NGO speakers said that the CAs should already be taking firmer action on EUTR breaches, and pursuing prosecutions and they highlighted discrepancies in enforcement.

One pointed out that part of a suspect batch of wenge from the Democratic Republic of Congo had been shipped to Germany and part to the Czech Republic. But despite NGOs informing CAs in both countries, only the German agency had seized the material.

Mr Stewart said the bodies appointed CAs were largely previously unacquainted with the timber industry and needed time to understand supply chains and establish robust systems.

“But longer term, it is key that they all operate to the same standards to ensure effective uniform implementation of the EUTR,” he said.

Through Project Leaf, Interpol has built up expertise in identifying “timber trade pattern anomalies” that point to illegality.

“This is the sort of information that could be very useful to the work of CAs,” said Mr Stewart. “Working with them, NGOs, supplier country law enforcement and other stakeholders, we could establish a clearing house for illegal logging intelligence; effectively an international illegal timber tip-off service.”

Interpol’s ultimate target, he added, were the big businesses behind illegal logging. “We’re following the money trail to identify the king pins, not the individual guy with the chainsaw,” he said.

The agency is also now bringing satellite tracking to bear on suspect timber vessels and Mr Stewart said it was due to go public on such an operation ‘very soon’.