Wildlife crime: the soft underbelly of organised crime

Wildlife crime is believed to intersect with other transnational organised crimes such as drugs, arms and human trafficking. Panel members at the online event we co-hosted with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on 16 October reflected on this topic, and our new briefing paper illustrates how intelligence analysis can lead to a greater understanding of such crime convergence.

A high-level online event at the CoP to UNTOC

On 16 October 2020, we partnered with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to host an online panel discussion, Wildlife Crime: The soft underbelly of organised crime

An official side event at the Tenth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC), our panellists examined how the cross-cutting nature of wildlife crime can present multiple entry points for law enforcement engaged against organised crime.

We were honoured to be joined by several experts on this inter-disciplinary topic. The event was moderated by Jorge Ríos, Chief of Global Programme Wildlife and Forest Crimes at UNODC and presented by Olivia Swaak-Goldman, Executive Director at the Wildlife Justice Commission. During her presentation, Olivia remarked on the work undertaken by the organisation’s Intelligence Development Unit: “One of the unique features of the Wildlife Justice Commission is its excellent Intelligence Unit. It produces a broad intelligence picture that spans borders and cooperates with multiple law enforcement agencies. This puts us in an ideal position to discuss the opportunities this convergence presents with practitioners from other fields of law enforcement.”

During the discussion, Sarah Stoner, Director of Intelligence at the Wildlife Justice Commission, introduced the briefing paper published today by the organisation and stressed that “the cross-cutting nature of wildlife crime identified through intelligence analysis can present potential opportunities to infiltrate networks that may be engaging in multiple forms of organised crime.” Jan Čapek, from the Czech Environmental Inspectorate, shared several cases of crime convergence involving wildlife that Customs encounters.

Nelson Cheng, Former Assistant Commissioner of Police (Operations) of the Hong Kong Police focused his participation on the need for international collaboration to tackle crime convergence at this level: “The trend of crime convergence calls for a holistic law enforcement approach and closer domestic and international collaboration and cooperation.” And Giovanni Broussard, who is Regional Coordinator in Asia for the Global Programme Wildlife and Forest Crimes of UNODC, remarked that “by demonstrating the links between wildlife trafficking and other crimes it is possible to effectively identify, punish and dismantle organised criminal networks.”

The need for an intelligence-led approach to wildlife crime

To coincide with this webinar, the Wildlife Justice Commission has published a briefing paper on the opportunities presented by this crime convergence. The paper presents a case study on crime convergence and concludes that for law enforcement to utilise such confluence to their advantage, intelligence analysis is vital and requires better resourcing. Furthermore, the value of intelligence diminishes when it is neither actioned nor shared, therefore the sharing and dissemination of intelligence products is paramount.

This briefing paper aims at contributing to inform law enforcement with different mandates and investigative powers to strengthen their alignment of resources, leading to transnational, organised crime being tackled in a more coordinated and complementary manner. 

Read here: Wildlife crime: the soft underbelly of organised crime