New report sheds light on the key role of corruption in enabling wildlife crime

Since the creation of the Wildlife Justice Commission in 2015, a constant that has been observed in all intelligence-led investigations into wildlife trafficking across the globe is the role of corruption in enabling this form of organised crime. Corruption is the air that wildlife crime breathes; it is one of the key enablers of widespread and large-scale wildlife trafficking and one of the biggest obstacles to effective law enforcement.  

Corruption along the supply chain of wildlife trafficking  

Corruption facilitates the poaching, transportation, processing, and sale of illegal wildlife products at every step of the global supply chain, from source location to destination market. It frequently occurs in the process of applying for licences, permits, or other documentation, or at border control or other inspection points where officials may be bribed to facilitate the movement of contraband across borders or to “turn a blind eye” to illegal activities. Corrupt support can also undermine the criminal justice system, such as by providing advance warnings about law enforcement activity, payments for protecting or not prosecuting traffickers, selling back seized contraband, or bribes to secure bail or release offenders from custody.  

Why is the Wildlife Justice Commission releasing this report?  

The Wildlife Justice Commission is publishing this report focusing on the role of corruption as one of the most important enabling factors behind wildlife crime, in an attempt to bring more clarity to this murky subject. The report presents a collection of case examples to illustrate the mechanisms and modalities of corruption in real terms – how it facilitates the movement of wildlife shipments along all stages of the supply chain from source to market, and how it can serve criminality by obstructing the criminal justice response, allowing criminal networks to operate with impunity. The report also highlights the harm caused by corruption and urges strong action to counter it.   

By zeroing in on the role of corruption, this report aims to assist law enforcement and policy makers to: 

  • Understand how corrupt acts can present in relation to wildlife crime. 
  • Identify points of potential corruption risk in the wildlife trade supply chain.  
  • Consider practical measures that could be taken to mitigate and address these risks.  

The report also provides a detailed rhino horn trafficking case study that highlights the close links between crime enabling factors and areas of corruption risk, many of which can be addressed together with the use of standard law enforcement methodologies and tools such as intelligence analysis, specialised investigation techniques, financial investigations, and international cooperation. 

Legal frameworks and their enforcement  

The report sheds light on the gap that exists between the legal frameworks that address corruption-enabled wildlife crime and their enforcement in practice.   

Wildlife crime and corruption must be addressed in a more connected way, rather than being treated as two separate issues in law enforcement responses. Levelling the playing field will require an innovative and cohesive approach on the part of all stakeholders to identify the high-risk areas for corruption, develop the means to prevent, investigate, and prosecute corrupt activities, and establish a robust framework to tackle corruption along the wildlife supply chain.