The Duke of Cambridge is backing efforts to “end the illegal wildlife trade for good” as a new report highlights the global threat of the criminal activity.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the money laundering and terrorism funding watchdog, said it is concerned about the lack of focus on the financial aspects of the major transnational crime, which it estimates to be worth between 7 and 23 billion US dollars (£5.6 and £18.5 billion) per year.
Working in collaboration with the Duke of Cambridge’s United For Wildlife organisation, the FATF has released a report which assesses the money laundering aspects of wildlife crimes.
In its report, published on Thursday, it details the common methods used by traffickers to launder money, which “fuels corruption and threatens biodiversity” as well as adversely affects public health and the economy.
It states criminals misuse legitimate wildlife trade and other import-export type businesses as a front to move and hide illegal proceeds from wildlife crimes, as well as heavily relying on bribing officials, including rangers, customs agents, prosecutors and judges.
It continued: “They also rely regularly on corruption, complex fraud and tax evasion.”
Prince William has praised the FATF for its report, saying it is “a pivotal moment in the fight against the illegal wildlife trade.”
In a video message on Thursday, he said: “The work that has been done will help authorities trace the finances of the transnational organised crime gangs that facilitate this abhorrent activity.
“It underlines the need for us to work together to tackle the ill-gotten gains of wildlife poachers and traffickers and put a stop to this multi-billion criminal dollar enterprise.”
He said he is pleased the FATF and United for Wildlife were using the report to educate governments around the world, adding: “This will help to improve and co-ordinate the public and private sectors to detect, disrupt and prevent this crime.
“Because it is only through prioritising this issue and following the money that we will stop these criminals in their tracks.
“Once again, I am grateful to you all for your continued efforts to end the illegal wildlife trade for good.”
Some examples in the report of illegally traded wildlife include juvenile glass eels, which can be worth as much as 6,000 dollars (£4,800) in Europe, ivory, rhinoceros horn and pangolin scales.
The FATF found technology was playing an important role for buyers and sellers to communicate and carry out transactions, particularly through encrypted platforms and marketplaces on social media, with the VPN connection disguising the location of traffickers.
In its recommendations, the FATF has urged governments around the world to engage in “high-level political commitment” in investigating these crimes, and proposed a collaboration between law enforcement and anti-money laundering organisations.