Financial gain is the incentive driving organised environmental crimes. Despite increased awareness, law enforcement agencies have yet to systemically leverage one of the most effective tools: financial investigations. To share best practices, the Wildlife Justice Commission co-hosted on 15 February an online panel discussion with France, titled ‘Addressing illicit financial flows derived from crimes that affect the environment: Good practices and challenges.’
The online panel discussion served as a side event to the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice’s (CCPCJ) Expert Discussions on Crimes that Affect the Environment.
The panel discussion featured an array of wildlife and environmental crime experts who shared best practices:
- Jean-François Bonhert, National Prosecutor for Financial Crimes, French Office for Serious Economic and Financial Crimes
- Stephen Carmody, Director of Programs, Wildlife Justice Commission,
- Fabrizio Fioroni, AML and CFT Adviser, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Southeast Asia and Pacific Office.
Olivia Swaak-Goldman, Executive Director at the Wildlife Justice Commission, moderated the panel discussion.
“The links between environmental crime and white-collar crime need strong and committed law enforcement authorities being able to work together thanks to worldwide mutual legal assistance.“
“Until we do follow the money, we are not going to get the people driving the trade and making the most [profit] from these crimes.”
“Environmental crimes are low-risk, high-reward activities. Effective anti-money laundering measures can make them turn into high-risk, low-reward serious crimes.“
Environmental crimes have historically been perceived as a fringe or emerging issue. But they are, in fact, serious organised crime, often transnational, and estimated to generate yearly revenue of USD 110 to 281 billion per year (INTERPOL, 2018). The most effective way to disrupt and dismantle environmental criminal networks is to identify and remove their incentives and, as a result, target criminals where it hurts the most: their money.
The rapid loss of our biodiversity reminds us that time is running out. We won’t get a second chance.
Delivering a statement on how to combat environmental crimes
Olivia Swaak-Goldman delivered a statement on how to best combat environmental crimes as part of Thematic Session 2 of the conference. The statement pointed out the urgent need to prioritise wildlife and environmental crimes on a global level, noting how easily illegal activities can move to jurisdictions where they are of lower concern. And while the awareness of these crimes has increased, there is still a lack of resources available to combat them. For this reason, the statement also highlighted the value of intelligence analysis in tackling these crimes, citing it as ‘an incredibly important force multiplier where resources are low and the problem is vast’.