FINTRAC published today a new Operational Alert, Laundering the Proceeds of Crime from Illegal Wildlife Trade, meant to assist businesses subject to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act in better identifying and reporting financial transactions related to the laundering of proceeds of crime from illegal wildlife trade. This reporting will facilitate the production of actionable financial intelligence in support of law enforcement investigations of this appalling and cruel crime in Canada and abroad.
FINTRAC’s Operational Alert was developed in support of Project Anton, a new international public-private partnership aimed at improving awareness and understanding of the global threat posed by illegal wildlife trade, and targeting the laundering of proceeds from this despicable crime domestically and internationally. This initiative was named in honour of Anton Mzimba, Head of Security at the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve and a Global Conservation Technical Advisor, who was murdered in 2022 for his passionate commitment to protecting and conserving wildlife. Project Anton is led by Scotiabank and supported by The Royal Foundation’s United for Wildlife network, which was founded by Prince William, FINTRAC, AUSTRAC’s Fintel Alliance in Australia, the South African Anti-Money Laundering Integrated Task Force, the United Kingdom Financial Intelligence Unit, Western Union and numerous other government, law enforcement and non-governmental organizations in Canada and around the world with unique knowledge, expertise and tools in combatting illegal wildlife trade.
Illegal wildlife trade is a major and growing threat to the global environment and biodiversity, imperilling endangered species already on the edge of survival, and threatening fragile habitats, communities and livelihoods. Illegal wildlife trade can also have significant public health impacts, as the circulation of animal parts increases the chances of disease transmission and can be a path for future pandemics.
The Financial Action Task Force has identified illegal wildlife trade as a major transnational organized crime, which generates billions – some have estimated approximately 20 billion (USD) – of criminal proceeds each year. According to the Wildlife Justice Commission, illegal wildlife trade is considered a lucrative, low risk and high reward criminal activity, and often involves fraud schemes, tax evasion and other serious crimes that facilitate the illicit enterprise. Organized crime groups involved in wildlife crime are often also involved in other domestic and internationally connected criminal activity such as human trafficking, drug trafficking, firearm trafficking and money laundering.
A 2020 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime highlighted that suspected illegal wildlife traffickers from 150 different countries had been identified, illustrating that wildlife crime is a global issue. By following the money and generating actionable financial intelligence for law enforcement in Canada and around the world, Project Anton’s dedicated global network of public and private sector organizations will play a key role in helping to identify, pursue and prosecute perpetrators – and broader networks – linked to illegal wildlife trade.