Hải Phòng (Viet Nam), 22 April 2019 - A recent surge in seizures related to wild flora and fauna in the first quarter of 2019 leaves no doubt that organized criminal structures are heavily involved in the smuggling of endangered wildlife across and between continents, and East and Southeast Asia are in many respects at the centre of the trade. Whether they conceal elephant ivory tusks inside elaborate wooden planks or stuff hundreds of thousands of pangolin scales inside shipping containers, criminal syndicates are demonstrating a that they understand how trade facilities operate and how to exploit weaknesses.
In January, over 2 tonnes of ivory and pangolin scales were seized in Hải Phòng Viet Nam, followed a few months later by what is believed to be the world's largest ever ivory bust - 9.1 tonnes seized in Da Nang port . Crucially, seizures like these need to be followed by investigations, arrests and prosecutions of those involved, so that criminal syndicates are disrupted and dismantled.
In an effort to address a range of related capacity challenges in Viet Nam, the UNODC Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime has run a training course on controlled deliveries to address wildlife-related trafficking and shipments for the Ministry of Public Security and the General Department of Customs 16 - 19 April 2019 in Hải Phòng port. Importantly the course was an inter-agency effort, bringing together 24 police, customs officers and border army officers.
The primary objective of the training course was to provide participants from different agencies the opportunity to work together, to communicate and coordinate a simulated, real time, joint controlled delivery operation. Similar courses have also been delivered for officials in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Myanmar.
Even if a bill of lading lists a Vietnamese port as a consignment's final destination, often part of the contraband travels further by road to other Vietnamese provinces or to China. Allowing a shipment to complete the trip to its final destination allows law enforcement authorities to gain a better understanding of the methods being used by criminal networks. Giovanni Broussard, UNODC regional programme coordinator, remarked that "many opportunities to conduct controlled deliveries on wildlife-related shipments have been missed as this technique in Viet Nam is not yet considered a standard practice. The key is to engage the full range of authorities that need to be involved so they have the capability to operate together and get results" A sense of urgency was stressed by Pol. Maj. Gen. Le Tan Tao, Head of the Environmental Crime Police during his opening remarks when he stated: "The Government of Viet Nam has recently prioritized environmental crimes and the illegal trade in wildlife products. Unfortunately, wildlife trafficking still occurs, and we are ready to work with UNODC and international organizations to improve cooperation with other countries."
Following the course, UNODC - in cooperation with authorities in China and Viet Nam - will organize joint activities to strengthen cooperation and information exchange along their land border.
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