Kenya launches toolkit to track financial flows in illegal wildlife trade

By PAULINE KAIRU

Kenya has launched a financial flows toolkit to help track, share information and seize money involved in illegal wildlife trade.

Illegal wildlife trade (IWT) is the fourth largest organised crime after drugs, people and counterfeiting, costing $23billion annually.

“The new tool will support financial institutions including our Central bank, and other commercial banks, and Safaricom in tackling illicit money flows associated with illegal wildlife,” said Najib Balala, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Tourism.

He spoke last Thursday at the Kenya Wildlife Service headquarters in Nairobi where the launch took place.

“We are committed to combating illegal wildlife trade and particularly saving endangered species. Today, the Pangolin is the most illegally trafficked mammal in the world. We’re therefore grateful to all convening partners coming together with the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife in launching this toolkit that will contribute to the safeguarding of our flora and fauna for the benefit of future generations,” he added.

UK Minister for Environment, Lord Goldsmith, said, “We welcome Kenya’s continued efforts in prioritising tackling the illegal wildlife trade. This toolkit we’re launching today is an important part of our broader partnership on tackling illicit finance – and a brilliant example of British and Kenyan expertise coming together.

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“It will help financial institutions identify and report suspicious transactions making it difficult for criminal networks to profit off the illegal immigration trade.”

The toolkit builds on the landmark UK-UAE Partnership agreement to tackle illicit financial flows, formed in September 2021.

The launch took place simultaneously with similar ones in the United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates, to mark the UN World Wildlife Day celebrated on March 3.

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), around 20,000 African elephants are killed by poachers each year; and rhino poaching has soared since 2007 with an average death rate of around 100 rhinos per month.

Data from TRAFFIC confirms that at least 23.5 tons of pangolins and their parts were trafficked in 2021 alone.

The toolkit was developed in a multilateral collaboration between the UK Serious Organised Crime Network in collaboration with UAE and Kenyan governments, WWF, TRAFFIC, Themis, UK government, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and cross sector partners including Safaricom.

The toolkit will help law enforcement and financial institutions such as banks and mobile money service providers to detect and share information with other countries in an effort to address suspicious transactions relating to trafficking in wildlife.

It will focus mainly on the Africa to Asia route – including global financial centres, in particular the UAE, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Through public-private partnerships and international co-operation, the toolkit is expected to establish strong foundations of information sharing to fight crime.

“We are witnessing dramatic losses in species globally because of this for-profit crime, so effective strategies to address this require the financial underbelly to be targeted and disrupted.

“This toolkit will provide financial institutions and governments with the information they need to target and tackle illicit money flows associated with wildlife trafficking, making it harder for criminal syndicates to continue this detrimental practice,” TRAFFIC’s Africa Program Director, Nick Ahlers.

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