New guidelines to combat illegal wildlife trade

AUSTRAC, the financial intelligence unit of Australia has evolved guidelines on combating wildlife trafficking trade. These guidelines are structured by fintel alliance, a public private partnership of AUSTRAC in collaboration with the country’s department of agriculture, water and environment. With appropriate licenses and permits, it is legal to trade native Australian animals domestically however it is illegal to do the same internationally. Native reptiles are the most vulnerable to trafficking in Australia which is priced 28 times more than its domestic value in the overseas markets.

Globally, criminals are making a big fortune out of illegal wildlife trade by generating revenue of $23 billion each year. Internationally trafficked animals are either sourced from their habitat or bred in captivity. The illegal trade of wildlife is an environmental crime where criminals transport and trade the animals across international black markets. These criminals put the life of endangered animals at higher risk, causing environmental deterioration and fueling money laundering worldwide.

As per the guide, the illegal market for Australian wildlife sees animals removed from their habitat and mistreated by individuals and organized criminal networks for profit. The guidelines create awareness on the modus operandi of the illegal wildlife traffickers, the means to identify such suspicious financial activities and the corresponding reporting requirements. These traffickers get involved in other organized crimes as well since their ultimate objective being financial gain.

Multiple payments through various channels are carried out to complete a trafficking process successfully. Offenders may use the bank accounts of their family members or associated people to disguise the source and purpose of fund transfers. The related payment references need to be evaluated. Eg: citation of animal species in the payment details (skink, python etc) triggers suspicion. Accurate, detail oriented SMR (suspicious matter report) enable the AUSTRAC to combat wildlife trafficking and other crimes with higher efficacy.

Author: Rajashree, PonSun AML Academy