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Impacts of illegal wildlife trade on business – awareness is growing
Thursday, June 25, 2020
Skyscrapers seen from below

Illegal wildlife trade (IWT) is in the global spotlight thanks to its alleged role in triggering the coronavirus pandemic. It is sparking vivid debate among communities of experts not just in conservation, but in business, finance, technology, anti-corruption forces and law. 

One such debate is taking place in the ranks of litigation service providers and economic crime experts of the International Academy of Financial Crime Litigators and IWT specialists at the Basel Institute on Governance. We have decided to jointly publish a short series highlighting different expert perspectives on topics crucial to combating IWT.

In the article below, Antenor Madruga, Partner at FeldensMadruga and Fellow of the International Academy of Financial Crime Litigators, explores the impacts of IWT on business. 

Awareness is growing

Awareness – or lack of it

Companies are generally unaware of the regulatory, financial and reputational risks related to illegal wildlife trade, although they may be directly or indirectly instrumental to the illegal wildlife trade. This, for instance, is an issue rarely contemplated in compliance programmes of companies obliged to monitor and report money laundering suspicious activities.

Growing incentives

Illegal wildlife trade, as any other relevant criminal trade, needs to integrate their instrumentalities and proceeds through several businesses required by law to promptly monitor and report money laundering suspicions.

At the end of 2019, the Financial Action Task Force – FATF has made it a priority to help countries go after the money involved in the illegal wildlife trade, and identify and disrupt large criminal networks that profit from this crime. This and other initiatives, besides the cruelty of the trade itself, will certainly increase the regulatory, financial and reputational risks of companies directly or indirectly implicated in illegal wildlife trade.

Which sectors?

The transportation and cargo sector perhaps is the most aware of its potential risks related to illegal wildlife trade. The financial sector, among others subject to anti-money laundering obligations, seems to be unaware of the role it may play, through its established anti-money laundering structures, in preventing the profita­bility of the illegal wildlife trade.

Impact of the pandemic

The pandemic and consequent spotlight on IWT will likely motivate government authorities to expand controls and enforcement actions. It is also possible that new regulations will impose further sanctions and compliance obligations to companies in different sectors.

To view the alternative perspective on this topic by Dr. Timothy Wittig, Senior IWT Specialist at the Basel Institute on Governance, see the Basel Institute's website or download the PDF.