Forget illicit drugs, a new report released August 22, 2008, from Criminal Intelligence Service Canada (CISC) says trafficking electronic waste and exploiting natural resources are two new ways crime rings are trying to make a profit.
While the report, 2008 Report on Organized Crime, reviews the impacts of traditional threats posed by organized crime, including illicit drugs, money laundering and the exploitation of individuals with specialized skills, it also examines new trends in global crime rings, namely the illicit disposal of electronic waste and the exploitation of natural resources.
A criminal organization or crime ring is a group of three or more people in or outside of Canada that, as one of its main purposes, commits one or more serious offences that result in the direct or indirect receipt of a material benefit by the group. CISC says there are currently about 900 organized crime groups in Canada operating across the country, both in urban centres and rural areas.
Electronic and Electrical Waste
The report says the illicit trafficking and disposal of “e-waste” is driving a burgeoning environmental and human health crisis in several developing nations in Asia and Africa. The report says criminal networks can profit by collecting e-waste in developed countries, including Canada, and selling it to “recyclers” in developing nations. “This practice is a violation of both Canadian and international law,” says the report. “The United Nations estimates that the world produces approximately 50 million tons of e-waste annually, most of which is illegally exported to the developing world where virtually none of it is properly handled.” The report adds that this trend is expected to peak between 2009 and 2011 when millions of U.S. and Canadian televisions will become obsolete as digital broadcasts become the norm. “Organized crime often operates in a border-less environment, and across multiple jurisdictions,” says Donald Dixon, director general of CISC, adding that in today’s criminal environment, the need for effective coordination among law enforcement agencies is more essential than ever. “CISC’s role of facilitating the collection and exchange of criminal intelligence within our membership is essential in helping to diminish the harm caused to Canadians,” he notes.
In addition, some crime rings may be trying to obtain e-waste for its “obsolete disk drives” in an effort to collect and exploit government, corporate, or personal information that has not been properly deleted from these devices. “It is important for the public to be diligent in safeguarding their personal and financial information, and to report suspicious activity to law enforcement and other government or commercial authorities,” says Richard Deschesnes, CISC vice-chair. The report also notes that Canadians have serious concerns about the safety of their personal information: two in three worry that it is vulnerable to physical theft and one in two thinks that it is not adequately protected by computer systems.
The report says Canada’s natural resources, namely its marine resources, freshwater, forests and some wildlife, are particularly vulnerable to poaching and criminal exploitation. Canada’s forests represent one tenth of the world’s forested area and are vulnerable to illegal harvesting since they are relatively abundant, isolated and have a large number of logging access roads.