Duke of Cambridge recruits ‘financial taskforce’ to tackle international wildlife crime


Roland Oliphant, The Telegraph

Date Published

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The Duke of Cambridge will today launch a financial task force to disrupt international money flows linked to the illegal wildlife trade as part of a British-led diplomatic effort to end the global poaching crisis.

More than 30 international banks and financial institutions will pledge 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.

They will also sign up to an intelligence sharing financial task force led by United for Wildlife, a charity run by the Royal Foundation, and chaired by William Hague, the former foreign secretary.  

“Traffickers are brazenly exploiting global financial systems to move the proceeds of their crimes, remaining under the radar of investigation and law enforcement,” Lord Hague said.

“Financial institutions can, therefore, play a crucial role in disrupting such criminal activities and ending the illegal wildlife trade.”

The global trade in illegal wildlife produces is thought to be worth £18 billion annually and has been linked to organized crime groups engaged in money laundering, corruption, and the trafficking of drugs, weapons, and people. 

Scientists estimate just 415,000 elephants survive in Africa following a poaching crisis driven by rising disposable incomes and demand for luxury goods in east Asia. Over 100,000, or 20 percent of the population, have been lost in the past decade.

Signatories, which include Barclays Bank, HSBC, and Bank of America, agree “will not knowingly facilitate or tolerate financial flows that are derived from IWT and associated corruption”.

The financial task force announced today follows a similar initiative to encourage intelligence sharing among transportation companies and law enforcement agencies to better intercept smuggling routes.

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.

The Duke of Cambridge will be among dignitaries attending international conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade in London on Thursday.

The conference, which is hosted by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Environment Secretary Michael Gove, follows up on a similar conference in 2014 that led to a ban on the ivory trade in China.

Eighteen African governments will present their own national Elephant protection initiatives during a meeting with ministers and the prince on Thursday.  

The event is also expected to discuss creation of wildlife corridors to link up fragmented populations and engagement with local communities.