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Supporting jurisdictions to "follow the money" from wildlife crimes



Bangkok (Thailand), 27 July 2017
- Although wildlife crime has grown into a highly lucrative and specialised area of transnational organised crime, very little is known about how the proceeds are being moved. Financial investigation and anti-money laundering techniques are rarely used by jurisdictions to combat wildlife crime, and there is a general absence of intelligence exchange between law enforcement officials and financial intelligence units during the investigation of wildlife crimes. These are some of the principal findings of a study conducted by the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering and UNODC, and published in the report "Enhancing the Detection, Investigation and Disruption of Illicit Financial Flows from Wildlife Crime".

Forty-five jurisdictions from Asia-Pacific, Africa, Europe and the Americas participated in the study, which was undertaken in an attempt to identify typologies on how wildlife trafficking is financed, who is involved, and what routes and methods the illicit financial flows are taking. However, it instead found insufficient information available to develop these typologies due to a widespread lack of focus on financial flows from all but a few jurisdictions.

While almost all jurisdictions in the study reported that they are affected by wildlife crime, 71% did not regard it to be a significant money laundering threat in their jurisdiction. Yet the very high prices that products like ivory, rhino horn and others command in the black market denote the existence of significant illicit financial flows associated with wildlife crime, and therefore elements of serious financial crime, particularly money laundering. This presents significant concerns that wildlife crime may be overlooked and insufficiently addressed and mitigated as a money laundering threat.

The study also identified a number of challenges including inadequate legal frameworks, institutional arrangements and practices which may be hindering many jurisdictions' ability to 'follow the money' in wildlife investigations. For example, 22% of jurisdictions reported that wildlife crime is not a predicate offence for money laundering in their national legislation, and only 16% of jurisdictions reported that the relevant financial investigation authority was consulted or involved in the investigation of wildlife crime cases.

In addition to the principal findings of the research, the report includes a set of recommendations to support jurisdictions to take a "follow the money" approach to wildlife crime investigations. These include recommendations for joint investigative teams which include the relevant financial investigation authority; that as a matter of course, jurisdictions should conduct parallel financial investigations alongside those into the predicate offence; and encouraging the exchange of information between law enforcement agencies, financial intelligence units, financial institutions, and civil society.

The report also contains a collection of good practices implemented by various jurisdictions that can enhance the financial aspect of wildlife crime investigations, and some preliminary red flag indicators to assist financial institutions and others to capture relevant data, and to identify and report suspicious activity associated with wildlife crime.

Click here to read the full report.

Click here to learn more about UNODC's work on wildlife and forest crimes in the region.