A report stipulating the by Ibama (the Brazilian Environment Authority) imposed environmental fines shows that between January 1 and December 8, 2008 22,697 reports of environmental offences were made with a total of BRL 3.25 billion (€ 1.05 billion) in fines. The figure is 38% higher than in 2007, when it was BRL 2.37 billion (€ 0.772 billion).
The bulk of the amount came out of actions against deforestation in the Amazônia. Fines for illegal logging, storage and transport of illegal timber in this region reached BRL 1.76 billion (€ 0.57 billion), accounting for 54% of the total.
Pará is the federal state, which picked together the highest amount of fines with € 196 million. Followed by Mato Grosso (€ 195 million), Amazonas (€ 148 million), Minas Gerais (€ 140 million) and Rondônia (€ 75 million).
Writing criminal reports is one, but collecting the fines is a different chapter. A study by the Instituto do Homem e Meio Ambiente da Amazônia (Imazon = Institute of Man and Environment in the Amazon region) points out that a very small portion of that money actually gets into the public purse.
According to Imazon, the value of fines collected between 2001 and 2004 was only 2.5% of the total amount of fines imposed in this period. If the same pattern is repeated for 2008, the federal treasury will only collect BRL 81 million (€ 26 million).
But there is probably some progress, whatever that is supposed to mean in the Brazilian legal confusion. According to the researcher Paulo Barreto, one of the authors of the study, there were four legal bodies where could be appealed, now there are only two. Paulo, faithful believer as he is, thinks that this might speed up the process, but he warns that one of the main constraints of collecting fines is the lack of lawyers with Ibama. "What has to be done to improve the collection of fines, is focussing on the most important cases. All the studies show that 80% of the value of the fines should be raised by 20% of the processes.”
For Ibama it is not just the amount of fines in their fight against environmental crime. "Together with the fine, we have the seizure of the area, the confiscation of the illegal product, the removal of livestock, the seizure of trucks, machines and the deterrent effect of an inspection." says Roberto Borges, national coordinator for environmental operations of Ibama.
According to Borges, in addition to the fines Ibama also tried to permanently seize the property of the criminals. "It started with seized timber, but we have to expand to tractors and trucks, used for the environmental crime. We have to de-capitalize the environmental criminal." he says.
Source: O Liberal