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In the last five years, West Africa has emerged as a major source and transit hub in the global illegal wildlife trade (IWT). The industrial scale of the multi-tonne, multi-product seizures originating from West Africa clearly demonstrates that profit-driven organised crime groups are running the trade. Yet, while the significance of the region in global IWT flows is increasingly recognised, very little is known about the financial aspects of these criminal operations.
This paper begins by analysing IWT trends in West Africa, with a focus on high-grossing trafficking in elephant ivory, pangolin scales and rosewood. Second, it identifies key challenges that currently prevent the use of financial investigation in IWT cases, with a view to establishing baseline levels of awareness and capacity to combat IWT as a financial crime among financial intelligence units in the region. Third, it provides recommendations to support the implementation of the Financial Action Task Force's guidelines in the region.
BANNER IMAGE: Courtesy of Britta/Adobe Stock.