TNRC Video Following the Money in Illicit Wildlife Trade

Image representing TNRC's four focus areas: wildlife, fisheries, forests, and finance

Targeting Natural Resource Corruption

Harnessing knowledge, generating evidence, and supporting innovative policy and practice for more effective anti-corruption programming

Following the Money in Illicit Wildlife Trade


“Following the money” associated with a seizure of trafficked wildlife, timber or fish helps to identify the wider networks involved in illegal wildlife trade and to illuminate the corruption behind it. But it’s a new topic to many in the natural resource management and conservation communities. This TNRC event hosted by TraCCC, featured Senior Investigator at The Sentry and former FBI Special Agent, Debra LaPrevotte. LaPrevotte draws on wildlife trafficking cases and her own experience investigating illicit financial flows and corruption to suggest ways that the anti-money laundering techniques used to fight drug traffickers and other organized crime could strengthen efforts to counter illegal wildlife trade.

Ask three questions after each major seizure of trafficked wildlife, timber and fish: Did law enforcement continue to dismantle the network(s) involved? Did they conduct a separate financial investigation? Have they alerted financial institutions about what to look for in wildlife trafficking schemes? When the answers are negative, there may be room for NGOs, governments, or private companies to support various aspects of follow-up.

Among her many suggestions, LaPrevotte flags that poaching and trafficking syndicates can include government officials. While the U.S. Lacey Act is a better-known instrument to penalize trafficking in protected fish, wildlife, plants and plant products, she points to the option of leveraging the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (Global Magnitsky Act). The Act allows the U.S. government to sanction corrupt officials from anywhere in the world with penalties such as denying entry into the United States, visa revocation, and blocking transactions relating to property. It can be applied to officials or related individuals involved in corruption, violations of human rights and related offenses. It’s a new angle for the natural resources and conservation community that could be considered to address high-level corruption behind the trafficking of natural resources.

Image attribution: © / Jen Guyton / WWF; © Brian J. Skerry / National Geographic Stock / WWF; © Georgina Goodwin / Shoot The Earth / WWF-UK; © Hkun Lat / WWF-Aus