Global Financial Integrity (GFI) will next month release new estimates on the link between wildlife trafficking and the global shadow financial system. From its much-awaited report that will be published next month, GFI reveals that an estimated US$5 billion to $23 billion is lost through illegal wildlife trafficking each year.
GFI says halting illicit wildlife trade is an urgent issue, not just for species conservation but for development and security as well. Community-based ecotourism is a powerful tool that can benefit development, yet wildlife trafficking robs local communities of their resources. Furthermore, profits from the wildlife trafficking finance corruption, violence, and instability. “Per kilo, the retail profits for some wildlife products can be equal to or even greater than the equivalent amount of cocaine or heroin, yet the legal penalties are considerably more lenient.” said GFI Policy Analyst Channing May. “The ugliness of poaching trades on the beauty of nature, and this trade is lucrative. No country is untouched.”
In 2015, at least 1 342 rhinos were poached throughout Africa for their horns, representing a retail value of more than US$490 million. Criminals use a variety of means — from anonymous shell companies to trade misinvoicing — to smuggle goods and launder profits. Complex, anonymous multinational corporate structures hide beneficial ownership, making it extremely difficult for authorities to investigate and prosecute those responsible. “The global shadow financial system and its mechanisms play a major role in all transnational crime and corruption, not just wildlife trafficking,” noted GFI President Raymond Baker. “A united effort is needed to address trade misinvoicing, tax evasion, and anonymous shell companies.” The November 2016 GFI report will explore illicit financial flows associated with wildlife trafficking, as well as other transnational crimes: trafficking in drugs, cultural property, persons, organs, and arms, the illicit trade in conflict minerals, counterfeiting, crude oil theft, illegal logging, and illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.