Wildlife Justice Commission and International Anti-Corruption Academy webinar series highlights corruption as main enabler for environmental crime

To effectively disrupt and dismantle organised environmental crime, it is important to target the systemic corruption enabling it. This was the main conclusion of a recent three-part webinar series, organised by the Wildlife Justice Commission and the International Anti-Corruption Academy. The webinar series also looked at the different aspects of corruption as an enabling factor for environmental crime.

Understanding the nexus between environmental crime and corruption

The first virtual panel discussion took place in October 2021. Examining the nexus between environmental crime and corruption, the event, moderated by Mr. Vincent Opyene, Founder and CEO of the National Resource Conversation Network, Uganda and IACA Alumni, featured a panel of experts on wildlife, forestry, and fisheries crime: 

Steve Carmody, Director of Programs – Wildlife Justice Commission
Tim Steele, Senior Advisor, Corruption and Economic Crime Branch – UNODC     
Sven Biermann, Executive Director – Fisheries Transparency Initiative  

The conclusions of the panel confirmed the value of intelligence: financial investigations, intelligence analysis, and advanced investigative techniques are powerful tools to address the corruption that enables wildlife crime. Analysing the different levels of logging (strategic, tactical, and operational) can help to define tactical approaches to stem corruption driving illegal deforestation. Transparency is essential throughout: in the fisheries and wildlife space, it can be the backbone for a valuable system of accountability.

“The tools to address corruption linked to wildlife crime already exists but are not leveraged. There should be greater utilisation of techniques such as financial investigations, intelligence analysis, and advanced investigative techniques to address the corruption that enables wildlife crime.”

Steve Carmody, Director of Programs, Wildlife Justice Commission

Elucidating transversal themes: corruption and environmental crime    

In December 2021, the second webinar, moderated by Eduard Ivanov, Senior Researcher, International Anti-Corruption Academy, focused on common threads between corruption and environmental crime, from crime convergence to beneficial ownership, and the importance of financial investigations. The Wildlife Justice Commission’s Executive Director, Olivia Swaak-Goldman, was joined by experts from the UNODC and Corruption Watch:

Olivia Swaak-Goldman, Executive Director – Wildlife Justice Commission              
Atuweni Agbermodji, AML/CFT Advisor – UNODC
Mashuda Masutha, Legal Researcher – Corruption Watch

The discussion of the panel members highlighted the convergence of environmental crimes with other forms of transnational organised crime, and its potential to leverage resources for cases regarding environmental crimes. A clear necessity was demonstrated for financial investigations to be conducted alongside any effort to tackle such crimes. In that same vein, efforts to increase transparency around beneficial ownership pointed to the need for strong international cooperation in sectors prone to corruption.

“An essential step to address the corruption that enables environmental crimes is to raise its prioritisation. Until this prioritisation occurs, highlighting the convergence of environmental crimes with other forms of organised crime is an effective way to leverage resources that are dedicated to crimes that are prioritised for environmental crime cases.”

Olivia Swaak-Goldman, Executive Director, Wildlife Justice Commission

Avenues for tackling the corruption that enables environmental crime

The webinar series concluded in March of this year, with the third and final event addressing the challenges faced by law enforcement in investigating the nexus between environmental crime and corruption. Moderated by Syeda Mehar Zehra, CAMS MLRO & Manager – AML / Sanctions Compliance, HBL Bank Pakistan, the panel for this last session comprised of:

Maria Adomeit, Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer – Corruption and Economic Crime Branch, UNODC
Steve Kohn, Board Chair and Co-Founder – National Whistleblower Centre
Sarah Stoner, Director of Intelligence – Wildlife Justice Commission

The panel discussed some of the key avenues that can be followed to tackle the corruption enabling environmental crimes. The necessity for preventive measures was raised as they are essential to prevent these crimes before they irreversibly impact the environment. The effectiveness and global scope of US whistleblower laws was discussed to address environmental crimes. Finally, intelligence analysis was brought up as an effective best-practice to ensure that the limited resources available to law enforcement are leveraged for the greatest impact. 

The Wildlife Justice Commission would like to extend its most sincere gratitude to the International Anti-Corruption Academy, our guest speakers, and all the participants and attendees of this valuable and timely webinar series. We look forward to future collaborations that can increase the knowledge of our community and partners in effectively tackling environmental crime enabled by corruption.