Written by Esha Roy | New Delhi | Published: June 26, 2020 4:00:50 am
The report, released on Thursday, comes amid increasing international concern that the crime could lead to more zoonotic diseases in the future. (File Photo)
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an independent inter-governmental body that develops and promotes policies to protect the global financial system against money laundering, terrorist financing and the financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, has released its first ever report on illegal wildlife trade (IWT).
The report, released on Thursday, comes amid increasing international concern that the crime could lead to more zoonotic diseases in the future. Estimating the proceeds of IWT at between $7 and $23 billion per year globally, the FATF has suggested to all member governments that the financial aspect of wildlife trade needs to be looked at more carefully, and that money laundering laws should be applied to wildlife trade, since the proceeds enters the global market through money laundering.
“The illegal wildlife trade is devastating our wildlife and putting the global ecosystem at risk. Time is running out. To ensure the survival of endangered species, we need to build strong public private partnerships to prevent, detect and disrupt this activity following the money that fuels it and the organised crime gangs, poachers and traffickers behind it,” said FATF president Xiangmin Liu.
“The illegal wildlife trade (IWT) is a major transnational organised crime that fuels corruption, threats biodiversity, and can have significant public health impacts. In particular, the spread in recent years of zoonotic diseases underlines the importance of ensuring that wildlife is traded in a legal, safe and sustainable manner, and that countries remove the profitability of illegal markets,”says the report.
In its report, the FATF pointed out that following the money allows countries to identify a wider network of syndicate leaders and financiers involved and to reduce the profitability of the crime. It also stated that syndicates involved in the crime are usually engaged in other illegal enterprises, and that tackling IWT will help dismantle such networks.
“Combating criminal organisations through their financial flows is a significant legal and investigative tool to prevent wildlife trafficking and the potential proliferation of zoonotic diseases,” it stated, suggesting the use of money laundering offences since they carry more severe penalties in many countries.
While the exact connection between the trading of pangolins and pangolin scales with the Covid-19 outbreak is yet to be established, researchers internationally are looking into possible connections.
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