EIA heads up project to shut environment criminals out of the global financial system

EIA has assumed responsibility for an innovative project seeking to shut wildlife and forest criminals out of the global financial system.

The Media Monitoring system – created more than six years ago by Liberty Shared, a non-profit working on anti-trafficking projects – assists financial institutions to curb the huge money flows associated with crimes such as the trafficking of elephant ivory, pangolin scales and other endangered species as well as timber from illegal logging.

Trucks carrying timber, Myanmar

Trucks carrying stolen timber, Myanmar (c) EIAimage

Environmental crime is a hugely lucrative trade, the fourth largest criminal activity in the world after drugs, human trafficking and arms smuggling. Europol estimates the value of transnational environmental crime to be worth $70-213 billion a year.

The Media Monitoring system involves EIA and other NGOs compiling information from a range of open media sources naming individuals implicated in wildlife crime. This information is then provided to financial institutions to assist with due diligence and Know Your Customer checks to avoid doing business with wildlife traffickers.

We took over management of the system this month and have been feeding data into it since 2017. In that time, information supplied has led to the creation of 1,100 new or updated profiles for the financial sector to draw on.

Julian Newman, our Campaigns Director, said: “EIA commends Liberty Shared for creating the innovative media monitoring platform and looks forward to overseeing future development of this important tool to make it harder for wildlife criminals to move their money through the global banking system.

Ivory seized in Hong Kong (c) EIAimage

“We’re especially keen to expand it by recruiting more NGOs to provide information and are looking to increase number of recipients in the financial sector.”

Liberty Shared created the programme to focus on using the existing Anti-Money Laundering (AML) framework to share information on those profiting from slavery, wildlife trafficking and environmental crimes.

It has made more than 15,000 submissions of profiles of individuals and entities in global criminal justice systems to partners such as Thomson Reuters World Check, Dow Jones Risk Compliance and to various financial institutions such as banking groups and money service providers.

Duncan Jepson, Managing Director of Liberty Shared, said: “We are fortunate to be partnering in the fight to combat transnational wildlife trafficking with the EIA as it takes over on the wildlife trafficking and environmental crimes portion of the Media Monitoring programme. Liberty Shared will continue to operate the human trafficking portion.”

The Media Monitoring programme has been highlighted as a good example of NGO and financial sector collaboration by the Financial Action Task Force in its 2020 report Money Laundering and the illegal Wildlife Trade.