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China Customs focuses on financial investigations to pursue wildlife traffickers

Beijing (China), 26 January 2021
- UNODC has held a 3-day online training course on financial investigations of wildlife and forest crimes with China Customs, training over 70 investigators from the anti-smuggling bureau (ASB).

The course follows a coordinated effort among customs authorities in Asia – Operation Mekong Dragon II – to disrupt the trafficking of drugs and wildlife products. Of the 284 cases identified across 10 participating countries and territories, the ASB was responsible for 35% of them. Compared to other departments under China Customs, the ASB has been the only authority to conduct criminal investigations into cases of goods smuggling. “COVID-19 has posed new challenges to our work, but we have not stopped our efforts to tackle wildlife trafficking” said Ms. Beijing Wang, acting director of the international enforcement division of the anti-smuggling bureau, at the opening of the course.

The objective of the course was to provide an understanding of how financial investigations can be conducted alongside criminal investigations when cases of wildlife smuggling are detected. In a pre-course survey, approximately 80% of participants noted that had never conducted an investigation related to money laundering or had been trained to conduct financial investigations.

One of the participants to the courses explained that: “Financial investigations are very important to combat smuggling crimes, but currently there are problems such as investigative time limit and difficult analysis. Further training is needed”. Another participant to course highlighted a different concern: “In our anti-money laundering investigations, we can only guide the direction of the criminal investigation. The collection of financial evidence is the biggest problem that we encounter”.

An expert from the China Anti-Money Laundering Monitoring and Analysis Centre (CAMLMAC) provided the students with a description of the type of financial data that can be obtained to complement a criminal investigation at national or international level.

Given the broad spectrum of topics covered during the course, UNODC provided expertise from its Corruption and Economic Crime Branch, from the Global Programme on Money Laundering and from the Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime. UNODC Regional Coordinator Giovanni Broussard remarked, “We are pleased ASB is treating wildlife crime as a priority in their fight against transnational organized crime and we are determined to support the approach”. He added, “As ASB investigators continue to improve their skills to trace money, wildlife traffickers will be increasingly pushed out of business”.

Did you know?

“According to a 2017 UNODC/APG study across 45 jurisdictions, only 21% conduct financial investigations on wildlife crime, and only 1% of the wildlife crime cases involved money laundering investigations, charges or prosecutions”, commented UNODC Expert Timothy Bacwa.

“Of the 4,825 cases involving money laundering that were brought to court in China in 2018 only 47 of them were adjudicated for actual money laundering offences”, observed UNODC Advisor on AML/CFT, Fabrizio Fioroni.

For more information about wildlife and forest crime click here.