Illegal wildlife trade 

#GS3 #Wildlife #Conservation  

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) released its first-ever report on illegal wildlife trade (IWT) on Thursday. FATF is an independent inter-governmental body that develops and promotes policies to protect the global financial system against money laundering, terrorist financing and the financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. 

  • The report comes amid increasing international concern that the crime could lead to more zoonotic diseases in the future. Estimating the proceeds of IWT to be between $7 and $23 billion per year globally, the FATF has suggested to all member governments that the financial aspect of wildlife trade needs to be looked at more carefully, and that money laundering laws should be applied to wildlife trade since the proceeds enters the global market through money laundering. 
  • In its report, the FATF pointed out that following the money allows countries to identify a wider network of syndicate leaders and financiers involved, and to reduce the profitability of the crime. It also stated that syndicates involved in the crime are usually engaged in other illegal enterprises, and that tackling IWT will help dismantle such networks. 

Key points in the report 

  • While the exact connection between the trading of pangolins and pangolin scales to the Covid-19 outbreak is yet to be established, researchers across the globe are looking into possible ties. 
  • India has also been a source country for illegal pangolin trading. 
  • Syndicates involved in wildlife crime usually poach, harvest or breed wildlife in countries that are rich in biodiversity and/or where there may be weaker law enforcement oversight and criminal justice — or in source countries.  
  • Similarly, most syndicates involved in such crime transit the wildlife through other countries to obfuscate the end destination.  
  • Transit countries typically include trade and transport hubs or countries with higher levels of corruption.  
  • The laundering of the proceeds occurs across source, transit and destination countries. 
  • Countries highlighted that criminals are relying on “established” methods to launder proceeds from IWT, including the placement and layering of funds through the formal financial sector.  
  • In particular, countries reported that criminals involved in IWT are placing and layering funds through cash deposits (under the guise of loans or payments), e-banking platforms (e.g., electronic payment services that are tied to a credit card or bank account) and licensed money value transfer systems (MVTS) like ‘hawala’, ‘hundi’ and ‘fei chen’ which are usually community-based and draw on a network of brokers across countries to facilitate international transfers without money physically crossing borders. Third-party wire transfers through banks are also used. 
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