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Using AML and special investigation techniques to improve the prosecution process of wildlife crime in Viet Nam

Hanoi (Viet Nam), 23 September 2017 - With Viet Nam's revised Penal Code bringing new money laundering and wildlife offences into force from the beginning of next year, a training course was held for prosecution instructors and in-service prosecutors to improve their understanding of these crimes and special investigation techniques that can be used to combat them.

The two-day training course on " Improving the Prosecution Process of Wildlife Crime, Money Laundering, and Other Transnational Crimes" was held from 22-23 September 2017, and organised by the Supreme People's Procuracy, with support from United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through its Governance for Inclusive Growth (GIG) Program, and UNODC. There were 60 participants including instructors from the Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City prosecutor training academies, as well as prosecutors serving in eight key provinces that regularly handle wildlife crime cases.

"In Vietnam we mostly deal with criminal cases where the suspects have been caught red-handed, but transnational organised crime cases are much more complex and we recognise the need for more specialised training to improve the investigation and prosecution of these cases," said Dr. Nguyen Duc Hanh, Vice-Director of the Prosecution University of Hanoi.

During the training course, participants analysed examples of how money laundering is organised and how to identify it, and discussed practical considerations for conducting financial investigations, using special investigation techniques, handling evidence, and international cooperation in wildlife crime and other transnational crime cases.

"It's important to look at the bigger picture of wildlife crime, as it often involves elements of other crimes, such as money laundering, corruption, and fraud," said Mr. David Anderson, GIG Program Director. "It's also important to consider the impact these crimes can have on the criminal justice system, and to take a whole-of-system approach to address them."

A representative from Viet Nam's Anti-Money Laundering Department (AMLD) also participated in the training course to introduce prosecutors to the role of the AMLD, and how financial intelligence can support the investigation of crime cases.

"We receive most suspicious transaction reports from banks and financial institutions, but we also receive them from insurance companies, casinos, and others," said Ms. Phan Hoai Duong, AMLD Inspector. "There have been some recent cases of tax evasion published in the media which started from suspicious transaction reports we received from a bank, and led to major investigations."

According to UNODC's Regional Anti-Money Laundering Advisor Mr. Chris Batt, who was one of the trainers in the course, this is a good start; but with the upcoming evaluation of Viet Nam's anti-money laundering system scheduled to take place in 2019 under the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) framework, there is still a lot of work to be done.

"The FATF assessment will be looking for evidence that Viet Nam is effectively investigating and prosecuting money laundering offences, and mitigating its national money laundering threats and risks, which should include key predicate crimes such as wildlife crime," said Mr. Batt.

"So far, Viet Nam has had only one successful money laundering conviction, and there have been many challenges in prosecuting wildlife cases involving African ivory and rhino horn. We hope that the new Penal Code articles will help to resolve many of those obstacles, and that this training course will contribute to Viet Nam's preparation for the upcoming FATF assessment."

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