Banks and Financial institutions have committed to tackling the multibillion-dollar illegal wildlife trade such as rhino horn and elephant tusks.

The Duke of Cambridge, President of United for Wildlife, hosted a meeting today with the newly-formed United for Wildlife Financial Taskforce.

Initially comprising of representatives from 30 global banks and financial organizations such as Standard Chartered, HSBC, RBS, and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, as well as agencies like TRAFFIC and RUSI. The signatories of the new Mansion House Declaration have committed to “contributing to the global fight against Illegal Wildlife Trade.”

The declaration includes commitments from the banks to train staff to identify and share intelligence on suspicious transactions linked to the illegal trade in elephant ivory, rhino horn, and other endangered species body parts.

The Duke of Cambridge has launched the task force backed by his charity United for Wildlife CREDIT: ADNAN ABIDI/AFP

“The illegal wildlife trade has grown substantially in recent years, despite considerable international efforts, and poaching rates for many species are still increasing to feed the growing criminal demand,” Chair of the Taskforce, Lord Hague of Richmond said in a statement. “Traffickers are brazenly exploiting global financial systems to move the proceeds of their crimes, remaining under the radar of investigation and law enforcement. It will take a truly global approach, with multiple organizations and sectors working together, to eradicate this barbaric trade and I am delighted that the financial sector is now committing its much needed support to do so. Financial institutions can, therefore, play a crucial role in disrupting such criminal activities and ending the illegal wildlife trade.”

Illegal Wildlife Trade is estimated to be worth up to 23 billion US dollars a year and often run by highly organized criminal networks. The finance sector can become involved, often unwittingly, with those who traffic illegal wildlife products. This is why United For Wildlife is working to identify actions the financial sector can take to detect and stop illegal wildlife trade, and intercept the financial gains driving it.

Being Committed

Using existing frameworks for tackling global financial crime, alongside initiatives which some financial institutions are already utilizing to tackle IWT, a bank-led experts group comprising of representatives from financial organizations, legal advisors and technical experts has created the Declaration which outlines six commitments:

1. Increasing awareness of how the financial industry can combat illegal wildlife trade
2. Providing training to identify and investigate suspicious activity
3. Providing intelligence to regulatory bodies and law enforcement agencies
4. Reviewing intelligence alerts received through the Taskforce and taking appropriate actions
5. Considering additional actions such as policy amendments
6. Supporting and promoting the work of the Taskforce and external supporting mechanisms

ivory confiscated zimbabwe
Ivory confiscated from poachers at Zimbawe’s National Parks headquarters CREDIT: ADRIAN STEIRN

Following the Money

“By following the money, financial institutions can help map the criminal networks and provide law enforcement with vital intelligence to support their investigations and prosecutions,” David Fein, Group General Council for Standard Chartered and Vice Chair of the Transport Taskforce said in a statement. “We want to take the fight to the traffickers, by using the tools and experience the financial sector has learned from combating other devastating crimes, such as human trafficking and terrorist financing.”

The creation of the Financial Taskforce follows on from the success of the of United for Wildlife’s Transportation Taskforce, and the signing of the Buckingham Palace Declaration in March 2016, which saw global transport industry leaders come together to identify ways the transport sector can close down criminal supply routes, and thwart the traffickers as part of efforts to address the urgent poaching crisis.

United for Wildlife, is a charity run by the Royal Foundation, and chaired by William Hague, the former UK foreign secretary. United for Wildlife’s transport task force says it has contributed to 5 seizures of wildlife products worth over $500,000, and assisted with more than 32 law enforcement investigations since it was launched in 2016.

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