FATF Report Addresses ‘Global Threat’ of Illegal Wildlife Trade

The FATF calls for a coordinated response from public authorities, the private sector and civil society to identify and disrupt financial flows from illegal wildlife trade. 

The FATF (Financial Action Task Force) has published its much-anticipated global report to provide guidance on measures jurisdictions can take to combat money laundering from the illegal wildlife trade.

“The illegal wildlife trade is a major transnational organised crime, which generates billions of criminal proceeds each year,” the FATF says. “Wildlife traffickers exploit weaknesses in the financial and non-financial sectors, to move, hide and launder their proceeds, enabling further wildlife crimes and damaging financial integrity.”

According to the FATF, one of the most effective ways to identify the broader criminal networks and take the profit out of illegal wildlife trade is to trace the financial flows of wildlife traffickers, however there is currently a lack of focus and priority placed on this crime.

“Jurisdictions should view the proceeds generated by illegal wildlife trade as a global threat, rather than as a problem only for those jurisdictions where wildlife is illegally harvested, transited, or sold,” the report says.

It calls for a “high-level political commitment” from governments, and a coordinated response from public authorities, the private sector and civil society to identify and disrupt financial flows from this criminal activity.

Individual jurisdictions need to identify and assess their money laundering risks relating to the illegal wildlife trade – as a priority – and ensure that national legislation and law enforcement powers allow authorities to target the finances of wildlife traffickers and to pursue financial investigations, the FATF says.

According to the report, despite an estimated USD 7 to 23 billion generated from illegal wildlife trade each year, most efforts taken by countries to date have rarely focused on the financial aspect of this crime, and rarely conduct financial investigations in parallel with seizures of illegal wildlife and products

Due to the low number of financial investigations to date, both the private and public sector have a “less developed knowledge” of the trends, methods and techniques used to launder proceeds from the illegal wildlife trade, which the FATF says inhibits an effective response.

The report highlights a number of methods criminals use to launder proceeds from the illegal wildlife trade – including the misuse of the formal financial sector, the use of shell companies to conceal payments and comingle proceeds with legitimate businesses, and the purchase of high-value goods (e.g. real estate, jewellery, artwork).

New technologies also play an important role in facilitating the illegal wildlife trade, allowing encrypted communications and non-face-to-face payments on online marketplaces hosted via social media sites, online vendor platforms, and the dark net.

At the same time, digital payment platforms are being misused to facilitate wildlife crime, the FATF says.

The report offers good practices and risk indicators to help the private sector identify potentially suspicious financial activity linked to the illegal wildlife trade.

The full report is available here.

The FATF is asking all governments to report back within 12 months on the action they have taken.

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, who spearheads the work of the United for Wildlife Financial Taskforce together with the Royal Foundation, welcomed the FATF report in a video message.

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