Bangkok (Thailand), 29 November 2016 - Senior specialiased investigators from 13 countries across Asia and Africa gathered in Bangkok today to begin an exchange of relevant information on cases of wildlife trafficking. Co-hosted by UNODC and the Royal Thai Police, with the participation of INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization and the Lusaka Agreement Task Force, this meeting aims at shifting the focus of the law enforcement operations from the mere seizures of contraband to the disruption of larger organized criminal networks.
The Wildlife Inter-Regional Enforcement (WIRE) meeting builds on recent momentum towards how states perceive threats posed by environmental crimes and the recognition that fostering and improving regional and inter-regional law enforcement cooperation is vital to addressing the transnational nature of the problem. Importantly, the meeting is part of the work programme to combat wildlife and timber trafficking developed under the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC).
"Without intelligence exchange we will not be able to disrupt the organized criminal networks involved in wildlife trafficking", said Commander Apichat Suriboonya, Head of INTERPOL Thailand, in stressing the importance of the meeting. "This is why we need to use this platform to learn as much as possible about investigations taking place in other countries".
Meetings of this nature offer an opportunity to promote bilateral and multilateral cooperation among countries investigating cases of ivory trafficking, rhino horn smuggling, tiger trade and pangolin smuggling. Importantly, it is also a forum where it is possible to discuss more complex investigating techniques which could yield success in the fight against wildlife trafficking.
"When contraband is identified at ports, airports or land borders, officers have a choice to either seize the contraband on the spot or to follow it" said Doug Goessman, UNODC Law Enforcement Advisor. "The implications of this choice are huge in terms of successfully combating organised crime".
"In our country we went through a real paradigm shift whereby we moved from treating wildlife crime as a conservation issue to handling these crimes as a national security threat," said the delegation from South Africa. "This is why we are not looking for poachers only anymore, but we rather target the poacher, to foreign facilitators, the associates, and the corrupt public officials involved. And we analyse the money trails that lead to the organised criminal syndicates".
"The WIRE meeting is meant to contribute to the work of INTERPOL and WCO to promote cooperation among law enforcement agencies," said Giovanni Broussard, Southeast Asia Coordinator of UNODC's Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crimes. "We have now reached the stage where the political statements by the leaders of many countries have to be matched by results, in terms of convictions of transnational criminals. We are running out of time and the reality is that there is no plan B to international cooperation."
Click here to learn more about UNODC's Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crimes.