UK Minister for Central & South Asia, North Africa, UN and the Commonwealth Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon in collaboration with His Excellency Ahmed Ali Al Sayegh launched a practical and freely accessible IWT Financial Flows Toolkit aimed at supporting governments and financial institutions to raise awareness of IWT and help them identify and mitigate suspicious transactions associated with illegal wildlife trade.
The toolkit builds on the landmark UK-UAE Partnership agreement to tackle illicit financial flows, formed in September 2021, and advises how the financial sector can play a pivotal in fighting this crime. Through public-private partnerships and international cooperation, financial institutions can establish strong foundations of information sharing to detect and address illicit money flows that have a detrimental impact on our economies and environment.
The Illegal wildlife trade (IWT) is the 4th-largest organised crime after drugs, people and counterfeiting, costing $23bilion annually. Financial crime is at the heart of it. Wildlife trafficking is not only extinguishing species and destabilising ecosystems, it’s also fuelling corruption and undermining livelihoods in our communities. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the numbers are horrific: around 20,000 African elephants are killed by poachers each year; and rhino poaching has soared since 2007 with an average death rate of around 100 rhinos per month. Data from TRAFFIC confirms that at least 23.5 tonnes of pangolins and their parts were trafficked in 2021 alone.
Minister Al Sayegh added that “Illegal Wildlife Trade forms an intrinsically important aspect of illicit financial flows. The partnership between the private and public sectors is key towards mitigating and addressing this global issue. This is why I am pleased that members of the UAE’s Public Private Partnership Subcommittee who will endorse the IWT toolkit, which will mark a new step towards combatting Illegal Wildlife Trade.”
UK Serious Organised Crime Network developed the Toolkit in collaboration with UAE government, WWF, TRAFFIC and Themis and with extensive contributions from various sectors. They focussed on the Africa to Asia route – including global financial centres, in particular the UAE, Hong Kong and Singapore.
The Toolkit addresses the nexus where IWT converges with serious organised crime, and to reach a broader spectrum of stakeholders, has been translated into Arabic and Mandarin by the UAE government and TRAFFIC’s China office.
Jennifer Croes, Associate Director at Emirates Nature-WWF said: Wildlife crime takes advantage of vulnerabilities in the supply chain, enabled by corruption, fraud, and inadequate regulation, converging with other forms of serious criminality such as money laundering and cybercrime. Financial institutions play a key role in monitoring and investigating suspicious activities, and to disrupt the trade chain holistically, we need to ‘Follow the Money’, that fuels and finances the trade. It is critical to work together with entities across the sectors to detect, investigate and disrupt illicit financial flows related to wildlife trafficking by utilising red flags and risk assessment indicators. The free, accessible and practical IWT Financial Flows Toolkit, also translated into Arabic, showcases UAE’s commitment in tackling this issue and putting an end to illegal wildlife trade.”
Nick Ahlers, Africa Programme Director at TRAFFIC added: “We are witnessing dramatic losses in species globally because of this for-profit crime, so effective strategies to address this require the financial underbelly to be targeted and disrupted. This toolkit will enable financial institutions and governments with the information they need to target and tackle illicit money flows associated with wildlife trafficking; making it harder for criminal syndicates to continue this detrimental practice.”