Updates from Viet Nam Public Hearing 2016

Justice Philippe Kirsch : Accountability Panel members have unanimously decided to validate the Map of Facts in Wildlife Justice Commission investigation in Nhi Khe Vietnam.

Olivia Swaak – Goldman: “We need to make iit harder for these criminals to get away with it.”

Olivia Swaak – Goldman: “We currently have 10 other investigations in play, and we consider case proposal from all countries.”

Olivia Swaak – Goldman: “You need to create political will but also look v closely at the tangible steps that need to be taken. To be productive.”

Director General of the Congolese Wildlife Society, DRC.

“Entities exist, we need greater international dialogue to enable these entities.” Turner

“We’ve already got the solutions, we’ve just got to enhance and implement them better” Daniel Turner

“One of the problems is that Vietnam actually has ecocide in its penal code; this problematises the issue of the transnational wildlife trade as the prosecutions would then extend passed Vietnam’s national remit” Polly Higgins

“What I’m advocating [ecocide] is the criminalisation of the destruction of natural ecosystems” Polly Higgins

“The EU Action plan on wildlife trafficking is a nice blueprint that could be implemented in other regions of the world, where we’ve identified multiple stakeholders interested in tackling wildlife crime, and such a plan could be implemented in other regions.” Daniel Turner

“The Gulf States are a largely ‘uninvestigated’ region of the world as a transit hub for wildlife trafficking” Daniel Turner

Daniel Turner, Associate Director, Born Free Foundation & Polly Higgins, Ecocide Law Expert, Earth Community Trust

“This is about getting to the fundamental issues, financial flows, transit & root causes.” Parry-Jones

“Corruption is a huge problem in Vietnam, particularly the police service and the judiciary. In recent years there’s been a huge increase in Foreign Direct Investment in Vietnam; the lack of reliable law enforcement judiciary is a serious problem that can potentially be very motivating for the government, which wants to see economic growth continue” Gillian Dell

“The status of civil society in Vietnam is at best ambiguous.” Dell

“It looks like the government of Vietnam is motivated to make improvements and improve its reputation.”Dell

“We need to be cognisant of where cultural identity sits, and how cultural medicines are linked to identity” Parry-Jones

“There’s an enormous importance that needs to be attached to shaping the behavioural attitudes of the next generations.” Parry-Jones

Rob Parry-Jones, Lead, Global Policy, Wildlife Crime Initiative, WWF International, & Gillian Dell, Head of Conventions Unit, Transparency International

“Ivory should be DNA tested in seizures / criminal investigations as standard procedure before being destroyed.” Leif Gorts

Professor Dr. Samuel Wasser, Center for Conservation Biology, University of Washington

Mary Rice: cites efforts of Kenyan government as an example of using political will to implement ways to tackle

Mary Rice: Gives example of displacement of traffickers activity from Tanzania to Mozambique.

Philip Muruthi, Senior Director Conservation, African Wildlife Foundation

“Globally, those in power, that decide, they don’t feel that environmental crime is a priority. It’s a political issue.” Leif Gorts

“If we can’t get governments  to take action what hope is there for all the species. We must put huge pressure on governments like Viet Nam.” Mary Rice

“Nobody can act in isolation & action must be taken across the supply chain.” Mary Rice

Mary Rice, Executive Director, Environmental Agency & Leif Gorts National Member of Sweden, Eurojust join Ghida Fakhry on stage.

Accountability Panel Member -Isaac Lenaola asks for examples of community initiatives across Africa which were successful, Reijnen references Masai communities.

Accountability Panel Member – Edgardo Buscaglia Identifying transport infrastructure is central to destroying criminal networks

“A multi-levelled response is needed, from the international community and across the supply chain.” Annette Hubschle

“If you look at Kruger National Park- 2.3 million people are situated around it; there were about 2,500 poaching incursions from neighbouring countries in 2015 alone. Frankly, I’m surprised that there aren’t more of those 2.3 million people involved in such poaching incursions”.

“We definitely need to address the transportation industry and cases of corruption found within the illegal trade and shipment of wildlife products in that industry” Annette Hubschle

Prof Sarath Kotogama on Sri Lanka’s position in criminal shipping routes from African continent to Asia.

“On how marginalisation can occur within conservation efforts -incentives & alternative livelihoods” Annette Hubschles

“Intelligence building is critical; rather than simply arresting low-level criminals in the supply chain and locking them up, we need to exploit their knowledge of the networks they support to identify those networks” Rikkert Reijnen

“Importance of working with communities in countering poaching.” Rikkert Reijnen

Rikkert Reijnan, Senior Project Lead Wildlife Trade, International Fund for Animal Welfare and Annette Hubschle Postdoctoral Researcher, University Cape Town, Senior Advisor, Global Initiative against Transnational  organized Crime join Ghida Fakhry talking about the livelihood drivers for trafficking

“This case shows the off-shoring of markets, eg: as China buyers go to Viet Nam, Laos & others.” Steven Broad

“If you’re not able to solve the demand problem poaching will continue to soar.” Avinash Basker, Wildlife Society of India

“India is a ‘wildlife’ supermarket when you look at the rest of Asia” Avinash Basker, Wildlife Protection Society of India

Avinash Basker, Head of Legal Program, Wildlife Protection Society of India.


“Demand for tiger products is for prestige, status, and to win contracts or promotions in work” Debbie Banks

“Parallel legal tiger farm market in Viet Nam perpetuates the illegal trade. This needs to be done urgently.” Debbie Banks

“Supply & demand issues: role of communities incredibly important.” Steven Broad

On wildlife crime “As global citizens we all need to speak up & do something about it” Sharon Kwok Pong

Sharon Kwok, Executive Director, Aquameridien Conservation & Education Foundation

“Sheer volume & accessibility of tiger parts uncovered by Wildlife Justice Commission confirms our fears.” Debbie Banks

Debbie Banks specialises in tigers illegal trade & primarily trade to China & also growth of tiger farms across South East Asia

“In Viet Nam we focus on the consumers of rhino horn & demand reduction through our inner-chi program.” Steven Broad

Steve Broad, Executive Director, TRAFFIC International  & Debbie Banks Tiger Campaign Leader, Environmental Investigation Agency to provide more info on illegal trade & demand reduction.

“Rangers need politicians to step in and tackle the transnational roots of wildlife crime and poaching” Lawrence Munro

“Poaching is a socioeconomic issue inextricably linked to park borders; across a park fence lies a monetary opportunity for people from bordering countries [with South Africa], and therein lies the temptation” Lawrence Munro

“Militarisation is a problematic term in relation to rangers. It denotes exactly what they are not, and I would argue that what is really necessary to aid rangers is professionalisation” Lawrence Munro

“Viet Nam encouraging that organisations like Wildlife Justice Commission to exist, the international community needs to take action.” Lawrence Munro

“I’ve come to learn that poachers are desperate, and they see rhinos as an opportunity.” Lawrence Munro

“For sure the conflict is escalating. It’s why I came here. The Wildlife Justice Commission’s work gives those in the field a little hope.” Lawrence Munro

“The price rangers pay: Rangers live in the battlefield. Unlike war where you are pulled out periodically.”Lawrence Munro

“Munro shows a horrific video: Poachers had broken a female rhino’s back & she was fully conscious when her horn was hacked off.”Lawrence Munro

“There is no peace in the Parks, rangers battle with poachers. It’s taking its toll on rangers.” Lawrence Munro

Ghida Fakhry introduces Lawrence Munro from African Parks who’s joined us from his current role as Field Operations Manager in Malawi.

We’ll hear the views of expert participants to add context to the evidence we represented yesterday.

Day 1: Viet Nam Public Hearing 2016

SUMMARY: second part of the first day from the Viet Nam Public Hearing 2016

Today we received info from Viet Nam embassy that one person of interest in our investigation has just been arrested.

There has been about 3 arrests in the past few months.

The counsellor of the Vietnamese embassy asked us to cancel the Public Hearing.

Unfortunately,we did not hear back from the Vietnamese authorities after the delivery of the Map of Facts.

China were receptive to the case file (shared due to the transnational trade) & started a preliminary investigation.

Pieter Mohr , Senior Strategic Partner at WJC takes stage to talk about the diplomatic effort and national dialogue.

Via WeChat our investigators were offered rhino horn and 1kg tiger penis:

One of the biggest traders posts extraordinary amounts of rhino horn daily on WeChat, offering 11 horns in just 1 image.

Video showing 440kg ivory offered to our investigators:

Evidence includes bank details of the ICBC accounts used by the network for these illegal transnational transactions.

Returning to present evidence from the investigation Pauline Verheij on how the trade moved from open to closed doors.

“Viet Nam represents a growing domestic market for ivory and rhino horn”

“We believe corruption is major issue at both ends of illegal trade supply chain. Viet Nam syndicates at both ends of chain.”

“We’ve seen the criminal adaptation of existing & unexpected trade routes showing the reach of these criminal networks”

“Demand reduction efforts are essential to transform VN wildlife product consumption”

Tom Milliken from TRAFFIC on ETIS a pioneering elephant trade information system, largest data model of its type

“Vietnam has been the biggest driver of the rhino horn trade which, up until the mid 2000s, had decreased tremendously; during this pre-2000s era rhino horn populations were steadily on the rise.”

“We’ve seen historically that the threat of international sanctions on primary consumer countries including Taiwan, South Korea and Japan, led to these countries outlawing and criminalising the possession, trade and sale of illicit wildlife products.”

“In group-oriented societies such as those found in South-East Asia, the alpha males of such groups often seek to reaffirm social status. The possession of rare wildlife products such as rhino horn reinforces this social status, as these individuals will use those products to show strength, virility, and as party cures for hangovers.”

“Vietnamese-run criminal syndicates have been found to be the financiers of criminal gangs poaching rhino populations in South Africa, where the country’s legal rhino-hunting industry has been exploited as an avenue to obtain and smuggle rhino horns. During 2007-2011 Vietnamese nationals were found to be the leading nationality for registered sport-hunting permits in South Africa.”

“Self-medication is driving the trade in Vietnam nowadays.”

“Vietnam is a gift-giving culture, where rhino horns are given as a sign of ultimate respect to an elder or higher ranking individual; government officials have often been suspected to receive such gifts.”

Dr Gravendeel: “Strength of the visual evidence, we are assured of the validity of these’ products'”



These bones contain a lot of fluid, they’re not dried out & contain marrow & flesh – they’re fresh tiger bones.



Dr Barbara Gravendeel, species expert from Naturalis Biodiversity Centre talks  about how they identify tiger bones.





Chart showing estimated numbers of animals killed for sale for elephants, rhinos and tigers







Chart showing the total quantity and value for elephants, rhinos and tigers.





Viet Nam Public Hearing 2016 – first summary of the day:

Music: New Dawn Bensound.com 




Identified as white rhino horn from South Africa by species ID experts, for sale in Nhi Khe.




Trader in Nhi Khe Viet Nam says she can deliver anything to customers in China, shows a few ivory items  she has in her shop. She also explains how to cross the river illegally by boat.


Discussion with one Chinese Buyer who explains that Chinese come to Viet Nam now because controls are very strict in China:

Chinese buyer: “Transporting from Africa (to China) is troublesome. The laws in VN are quite loose, and in Africa”


Ivory products shown and  offered for sale to our undercover investigators in Nhi Khe

Chinese buyers inspecting rhino horns:

Uncle Rhino Horn – nickname of one of the biggest traders in Nhi Khe.

Nhi Khe trades in action filmed by our undercover investigators:



Owner with ivory bangles & dollar bills. She’s a key trader.

We chose to focus on bigger premises due to the limited time you can remain undercover w/o arousing suspicion.



We visited 20 shops on our 1st undercover visit in Nhi Khe initially & identified 5 major premises for further investigation.

Pauline Verheij Senior legal investigator with Wildlife Justice Commission will go through the investigation evidence with Marcus Asner.

Marcus Asner: “The most devastating evidence you’ll see today comes from the traffickers themselves taken by undercover investigators.”



Traders showing our undercover investigators 480kg of ivory.


Marcus Asner  will present the Map of Facts on behalf of the Chief of Investigations

“On visit to Viet Nam – found people didn’t really know what rhinos or elephants were ‘as animals’ just as products”

Nadav Ossendryver  from African Youth Involvement, a Rhino Youth Ambassador takes stage.

Judge Fatoumatah Diarra, asked by Ghida Fakhry on issues of corruption and  for governments in source countries.

“At 8 years old I went to Kruger National Park and learned the importance of wildlife, Africa’s natural heritage, and preserving that heritage.”

“One of the reasons many people visit Africa is due to its wide range of animals.”

“Last year I went to Vietnam to help educate the people on the poaching phenomenon. People didn’t know about rhinos or elephants; they only knew of their horns and tusks”

“I spoke at schools, universities, colleges, and when I spoke to them about elephants and rhinos they didn’t know that these animals were dying for ivory and rhino horns to be obtained.”

Judge Fatoumatah Diarra, former VP of the International Criminal Court, Accountability Panel member from Mali joins Ghida on stage.

“In Africa it’s necessary to educate people; Africa puts a lot of priority on people in terms of education and medical care, but there needs to also be an investment of energy into fighting wildlife crime, which will be difficult.”

“It’s important to fight wildlife crime in order to prevent the funding of jihadist groups”

Judge Motoo Noguchi on the need to fight culture of impunity in tackling compared to other crimes.

Judge Noguchi: “what is most lacking is enforcement based on the absence of political will.”

“there is a culture of impunity that needs to be addressed”

“wildlife crime is one of the most outstanding crimes in terms of illegal profits, corruption, and money laundering”

“Tackling wildlife crime at the higher levels is very much dependent on political will; the Wildlife Justice Commission is taking an innovative approach to encourage institutions to take action. Regardless of the painful outreach process involved, such political will must come from the government itself.”

Ghida Fakhry  takes the stage as Director of Proceedings.

“We have provisions in international law and national legal systems to stop

“A month ago, our undercover operatives were offered 2 tons of ivory by traffickers in Hanoi, and physically saw 880 kgs.”

“Unfortunately, we had little reaction from the Vietnamese authorities other than empty assurances”

“These criminal networks abuse legitimate systems: international banking, transport & social networks for huge profits.”

“Evidence will show the the massive scale of illegal & cross-border trade in Nhe Khe, traders operate with impunity.”

“Occasional seizures alone are not enough to shut down the Nhi Khe hub or to deter others. It is a bandied.”

Opening Statement by our Executive Director Olivia Swaak-Goldman