ESAAMLG - Find workable solutions to AML/CFT through Public-Private Sector Dialogue: Illicit Wildlife trade

Today in Seychelles, Monday 10 September 2018

By C Ouma

As part of the 2018 Agenda of the 18th Eastern and Southern African Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG) meeting, Seychelles also held the 4th ESAAMLG Public-Private Sector Dialogue (PPSD) from 7 to 8 September at the Savoy Resort and Spa. The PPSD is designed to help facilitate the development and implementation of robust Anti Money Laundering and combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regimes in the ESAAMLG region. Tackling money laundering associated with the illegal wildlife trade in the ESAANLG region was one of four topics featured.

Illegal trade of wildlife and wildlife products is considered the biggest threat of many endangered species while at the same time threatening to overturn decades of conservation gains. It is considered to be one of the most lucrative transnational organized crime globally, estimated to be a multibillion-dollar industry involving the unlawful harvest of and trade in wildlife and wildlife products.

It has reached unprecedented levels, threatening the long-term survival of populations of numerous key species. The illegal proceeds are suspected to be laundered into the financial systems worldwide.

In regards to this issue, Seychelles Minister for Finance, Trade, Investment and Economic Planning, Ambassador Maurice Loustau- Lalanne pointed out that one of the major findings of the 2016 ESAAMLG study on Poaching and Illegal Trade in Wildlife and Wildlife Products and Associated Money Laundering in the ESAAMLG Region was that wildlife crimes, particularly rhino and elephant poaching, are escalating at alarming levels, with extinction of these animals being a reality in the region. The study further found that a number of vulnerabilities in wildlife crime combating frameworks across the various member countries are exploited by syndicates committing these crimes.

“The ramifications of poaching and other wildlife crimes and illegal trade are horrendous. ESAAMLG member countries’ future generations stand the possible risk of not seeing the wonderful wildlife which the region has been naturally enriched with,” lamented the Minister.

He also reminded the delegates that the trade in illegal wildlife products is driven by profit and therefore suggested that the Saturday 8 discussion should aim to find ways of driving the criminal leaders out of business, through inter-agency cooperation and use of financial tools in tackling poaching and other forms of criminal wildlife trade.

“Anti-money laundering deterrence measures and financial investigation techniques need to be prioritised in order to trace the money and topple the ivory kingpins that continue to threaten rare and precious wildlife. Tracing the money helps identify accomplices of those who are caught red-handed, together with their ringleaders. It can identify laundered assets and property, track the movement of individuals, link suspects to criminality and play a critical role in successful convictions. I urge our banks, money changers, mobile money service providers and other financial institutions and law enforcement agents to remain alert and vigilant in order to avoid being used by such criminals,” urged Minister Loustau- Lalanne.

He also pointed out that Seychelles has not been spared from the harm that is brought by illicit trade in Wildlife and Wildlife Products. “Our endemic giant bronze gecko, found in small numbers on only one Seychelles Island, has recently been the subject of a poaching campaign for the pet reptile trade. These beautiful and very rare animals are currently regarded as one of the holy grails amongst reptile collectors and are consequently being traded for thousands of Euros each, online and at international reptile fairs. It is estimated that last year alone, more than 2% of the global population of this gecko was poached,” highlighted the minister.

Reproduced with permission from Today in Seychelles

Photo: Maurice Loustau-Lalanne said Seychelles will ensure that the organisation continues to play a positive role in the fight against Money Laundering, Financing of Terrorism.  (Joena Meme) Courtesy of Seychelles News Agency

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