Green Corruption

The Basel Institute’s Green Corruption programme is a multi-disciplinary initiative that targets environmental degradation using anti-corruption and governance tools. Our team consists of specialists in financial investigation and asset recovery, public governance, intelligence and environmental crime. 

We work worldwide with the public and private sectors and civil society to bring a “follow the money” approach to the fight against illegal wildlife trade (IWT), forest crimes, illegal mining and other environmental crimes. This includes supporting our law enforcement partners to build investigative capacity to trace illicit funds and confiscate the proceeds of crime. 

The aim is to make it much more difficult to profit from environmental crime for criminal organisations, unscrupulous corporations and corrupt officials that are exploiting our planet for personal gain.

To complement this enforcement work, we are collaborating with environmental government agencies to strengthen their internal resilience against corruption that may influence and undermine their operations. 

Frequently asked questions

What is “Green Corruption”?

Corruption and weak governance are key enablers of environmental crime. As such, they are key drivers of environmental degradation in many parts of the world. This has become an existential threat to the environment and humankind.

Green Corruption flow chart

In brief, environmental criminals exploit gaps in governance and use corruption to facilitate illegal activities related to illegal wildlife trade (IWT), illegal unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, illegal logging, illegal mining and waste trafficking. They then launder the profits of their illicit trades using the licit financial industry.

To prevent further environmental degradation resulting from the illegal exploitation and trade of wildlife and other natural or polluting resources, it is essential to “follow the money”.

Removing opportunities for corruption, tracing illicit financial flows and confiscating the proceeds of crime will help to dismantle the criminal individuals and organisations that are exploiting the planet for personal gain.

What does the Basel Institute bring to the fight against environmental crime?

At the Basel Institute on Governance, we have almost two decades of experience in preventing and combating corruption, tracing and recovering stolen assets, and strengthening governance.

In 2018, we began to apply our experience in fighting financial crime to IWT. This includes working with key financial institutions and law enforcement partners to strengthen the investigation and prosecution of transnational IWT-related financial crimes, producing and facilitating the sharing of actionable intelligence on criminal networks, and assisting with regional and international cooperation.

To ensure that private sector and law enforcement action is well targeted, we have undertaken field research into the drivers and facilitators of wildlife trafficking in East Africa and the operations and interactions of criminal networks within formal and informal economies.

Since our initial focus on transnational IWT, we have expanded to other forms of environmental crime. We are now also actively working with governments on environmental crimes related to deforestation, illegal unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and the illicit gold trade. We are also conducting research on corruption related to waste trafficking.

Where and with whom do you work?

We currently have a field presence in East Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. Since criminals do not respect borders, our work naturally and regularly also operates beyond the confines of our field presences.

As an independent organisation that works hand-in-hand with governments, international organisations, civil society and private sector partners around the world, we are well positioned to take action and join a broad coalition of support to tackle the financial crimes that drive environmental degradation.

We regularly bring together leading figures from the public and private sectors and civil society to explore topics of financial crime, illicit trade and the environment. Examples include the Corrupting the Environment webinar series in 2021 in partnership with the OECD, and events such as the high-level panel on Environmental Corruption as a Roadblock to Reaching the SDGs at the 9th Conference of the States Parties to the UNCAC. We also hold regular cross-sector discussions with other stakeholders through the USAID-funded Targeting Natural Resource Corruption project.

How is the Green Corruption programme funded?

We are grateful to the Principality of Liechtenstein for providing core funding to the Green Corruption programme.

In addition, we implement projects for a variety of institutional and private donors, including the following past and current donors since 2018:

Past donors include:

Where can I learn more about Green Corruption?

In addition to browsing our publications, you can access an interactive four-part series on different aspects of green corruption on our online learning platform, Basel LEARN:

  1. Illegal wildlife trade and financial crime
  2. Illegality in the exotic pet trade
  3. Forest crime and the illegal timber trade
  4. Corruption and marine wildlife trafficking

Find summaries and audio/video recordings from our Corrupting the Environment virtual event series here.

Our eLearning course on Open-source Intelligence, developed with funding from PMI Impact and available for free on our Basel LEARN platform, involves a simulated investigation into a case of illegal fishing.

You can also take a free introductory online training programme (two hours) on how to identify and mitigate financial risks related to illegal wildlife trade in general. It was co-developed by ACAMS (the largest association of anti-financial crime professionals) and WWF with our team’s support.

"Green Corruption is destroying our planet, and the Green Corruption programme is fighting back. Reach out to find out how you can get involved."

Juhani Grossmann

Team Leader Green Corruption
+41 61 205 55 30

With thanks to our current donors

Green Corruption donors