Banks must help stop illegal wildlife trade


Tintswalo Baloyi, CAJ News Africa

Date Published

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JOHANNESBURG: A banking executive has urged the finance sector to play a part in fighting illegal wildlife trade, a criminality that is endangering some species to the point of extinction.

Kweku Bedu-Addo, Chief Executive Officer of Standard Chartered Southern Africa, highlighted the enormous challenge, marked by more than 30,000 elephants killed each year. About 1,000 wildlife rangers have been killed in the last ten years.

Bedu-Addo noted the brutal business is now worth between US$7 billion (R98 billion) and $23 billion (R322 billion) annually. “Despite our best efforts, the criminals are still winning. To turn the tide, we need to rethink our approach. That means recognising that everyone has a part to play – including the financial sector.”

Standard Chartered is training branch tellers to better spot potentially suspicious transactions relating to the illegal wildlife trade.

“We’re making this crime an area of focus for our financial crime investigators and, through our Correspondent Banking Academies, working with clients to better understand and respond to the illegal wildlife trade,” Bedu-Addo said.

Standard Chartered’s latest brand campaign, showing across 11 countries, has focused on the illegal wildlife trade. “Through the trusted relationships we have with millions of customers around the world, including in many of the countries crucial to the demand, supply, or transit of illegal wildlife products, we can draw attention to the damage the trade can cause,” the executive said.

The bank has also played a central role in the establishment of the ‘United for Wildlife Financial Taskforce’.

Bedu-Addo is concerned illegal wildlife trade has barely received any attention as a form of financial crime. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, only 26 percent of jurisdictions look at the finances behind the trade.

“That means there is an important opportunity for banks to strengthen the fight against the trade,” said Bedu-Addo. He expressed hope the world is approaching a tipping point in the efforts to combat the trade.

“It’s time for the financial sector to take a stand, and by working together we can make a real difference,” Bedu-Addo said.