US, SA task team to combat financing of wildlife trafficking

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

As part of her meeting with South African officials, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, has announced a commitment between the U.S. Department of the Treasury and South Africa’s National Treasury to form a United States–South Africa Task Force on Combating the Financing of Wildlife Trafficking.

In a statement, the US Department of Treasury said the Task Force will work to combat illicit finance linked to illegal wildlife trade in three key areas.

“First, the Task Force will prioritise the sharing of financial red flags and indicators related to wildlife trafficking cases, especially those involving the U.S. and South Africa financial systems.

“The South African Anti-Money Laundering Integrated Task Force (SAMLIT), a public-private partnership, will play a key role working in collaboration with the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) in this effort,” the department said.

Second, it said, the Task Force will use increased information sharing between financial intelligence units to better support key law enforcement agencies from South Africa and the United States.

The department said this will bolster law enforcement efforts to use financial investigations to pursue and recover the illicit proceeds of wildlife criminals, especially transnational criminal organisations (TCOs) fueling and benefiting from corruption and the trafficking of, among other things, abalone, rhino horns, pangolins, and elephant ivory.

“Finally, the Task Force will convene relevant government authorities, regulators, law enforcement and the private sector to improve controls to combat money laundering and the illicit proceeds related to drug trafficking and wildlife trafficking.

“To protect wildlife populations from further poaching and disrupt the associated illicit trade, we must ‘follow the money’ in the same way we do with other serious crimes. This includes identifying and seizing the proceeds generated from the illegal wildlife trade and impeding the money laundering and cross-border transactions of the transnational criminal organisations often involved in - and who benefit from - corruption,” said Yellen in the statement. 

As President Joe Biden underlined during the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit in December 2022, the United States is committed to working with South Africa and across the African continent to address global challenges. 

The department said the Task Force is an opportunity to harness our shared interests to strengthen ties and address this global threat. –