Supervillians like Duke Nukem and Hoggish Greedly may be a menace to Captain Planet, but at least they can't flee justice by blending into a crowd. Most environmental criminals are much subtler, flying under the radar as they endanger entire species and ecosystems. Outlaws ranging from rhino poachers to river polluters have been especially prolific lately, perhaps anticipating a Captain Planet comeback.
But even without Planeteers to protect us, our powers combined can still put a dent in eco-crime. Interpol, the 190-nation law-enforcement agency, recently launched its first operation targeting fugitives wanted specifically for environmental crimes, and now it's seeking help from the general public. Titled "Infra Terra," the operation targets 139 fugitives sought by 36 countries for crimes that include illegal fishing, wildlife trafficking, illegal waste disposal, illegal logging and trading in illicit ivory.
Although Interpol plans to track down all 139 Infra Terra suspects, it has highlighted nine whose pursuit could use a boost from crowd-sourcing. This is part of the group's Turn Back Crime campaign, which encourages the private sector and the public to play an active role in crime prevention, both by starving criminal networks of their income and by helping police locate international fugitives.
"Even the smallest detail, which you might think is insignificant, has the potential to break a case wide open when combined with other evidence the police already have," says Interpol criminal intelligence officer Ioannis Kokkinis in a statement about the operation. "Sometimes all it takes is a fresh pair of eyes to bring new momentum to an investigation and provide the missing clue which will help locate these wanted individuals, some of whom have been evading justice for years."
Here's a closer look at the nine environmental fugitives Interpol is after:
Adriano Giacobone, 57, is wanted by Italy on charges of poisoning water beds, illegally transporting and discharging toxic waste, kidnapping, illegal detention and carrying of firearms, receiving stolen goods, aggravated wounding, theft, violence against a police officer, counterfeiting accounting books, fraudulent invoicing, resisting arrest, and fraudulent bankruptcy. He's 5 feet 6 inches tall (1.67 meters) with brown hair and brown eyes, and has been known to frequent Argentina, France, Morocco, Paraguay and Spain.
Ahmed Kamran, 29, is suspected of coordinating the illegal smuggling of more than 100 live wild animals from Tanzania to Qatar in 2010. Tanzanian authorities say Kamran and three accomplices paid to transport the animals — including giraffes, servals, antelopes and dozens of gazelles — to Kilimanjaro International Airport, where they were allegedly loaded onto a military plane and flown 2,000 miles to Qatar. Kamran, a Pakistani national, was charged but skipped bail; he may now be in Kenya, Pakistan or Qatar.
Ariel Bustamente Sanchez, 53, is being sought at the request of Costa Rica, where he's suspected of piracy and illegal fishing. As captain of a fishing vessel in 2008, Sanchez allegedly organized illegal tuna fishing within Cocos Island Marine Park, a national park and UNESCO World Heritage site in the eastern tropical Pacific. He's about 5 feet 7 inches tall (1.7 meters), weighs 160 pounds (73 kilograms) and has black hair with dark brown eyes, according to Interpol. He's known to frequent Colombia, Panama and his native Mexico.
Ben Simasiku, 32, is wanted in Botswana on charges of unlawfully possessing elephant tusks. Simasiku was one of four Zambians arrested in Botswana earlier this year and charged with illegal ivory trading after authorities found them with 17 cut pieces of elephant tusks. The suspects have since disappeared, prompting Interpol to issue a red notice for their capture. Simasiku is 5 feet 10 inches tall (1.78 meters), and is reportedly known to frequent Congo, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Bhekumusa Mawillis Shiba, 35, is suspected of killing a rhinoceros at Hlane National Park in Swaziland and removing its horns. Rhino poaching has become an epidemic in the region, where international crime syndicates capitalize on a false belief in some Asian countries that rhino horn has medicinal properties. Shiba, who also goes by the name Mawillies Bhekimusa, is known to frequent Mozambique as well as the Mpumalanga Province of eastern South Africa. Interpol warns he may be armed.
Feisal Mohamed Ali, 46, is the alleged leader of an ivory-smuggling ring in Kenya. Poachers have increasingly killed African elephants for their ivory tusks in recent years, with more than 20,000 poached in 2013 alone. At this pace, experts say central Africa could be devoid of elephants in a decade. Ali is being sought in connection with 228 tusks and 74 ivory pieces, weighing more than 2 metric tons, that were seized at a Mombasa motor vehicle warehouse in June. He's known to frequent Tanzania, and also goes by Omar or Shahbal.
Nicolaas Antonius Cornelis Maria Duindam, 55, is wanted by Brazil, where he's accused of belonging to a criminal organization known for trafficking native wildlife out of the country. The group is believed to specialize in the handling of butterflies, exotic birds and reptiles, and Duindam will face charges of environmental crime, wildlife crime and receiving stolen goods once he's apprehended. Known by the nickname "Nico," the Dutch national was last seen in the Netherlands, according to the NL Times.
Sergey Darminov, 50, is the alleged leader of a criminal organization in Russia known as "BPP," which authorities say was responsible for an illegal crab-fishing spree in 2006 and 2007. BPP made a profit of more than $450 million (U.S.) from poaching the crustaceans during those two years, according to Interpol, spurring Russia to seek Darminov on charges of organizing a criminal group, money laundering and violating Russian maritime laws. Aside from Russia, he's known to frequent Germany and Spain.
Sudiman Sunoto, 52, is wanted by Indonesia on charges of illegal logging. The lush, biodiverse archipelago has been swept by deforestation in recent decades, helping it surpass Brazil this year as the most rapidly deforesting country on Earth. Sunoto owned a shipment of 2,647 logs discovered in 2006 by Indonesian authorities, who suspected they were illegally obtained. The 5-foot-6-inch (1.68-meter), 172-pound (78-kilogram) Sunoto disappeared after failing to provide legal documentation for the timber, according to Interpol.
If you might have any information about the fugitives listed above — or any of the other 130 Infra Terra suspects — contact Interpol's Fugitive Investigative Support (FIS) unit. Tips can also be shared anonymously with any national chapter of Crime Stoppers International.
"We believe that the capture of these criminals on the run," says FIS chief Stefano Carvelli, "will contribute to the dismantlement of transnational organized crime groups who have turned environmental exploitation into a professional business with lucrative revenues."
Related poaching stories on MNN:
- Elephants are worth 76 times more alive than dead
- U.S. trains elite dogs to sniff out wildlife traffickers
- 7 high-tech tools that could make poaching extinct