Following the money … fighting wildlife crime

By August 20, 2020Law & legislation


Ivory seizure. Screenshot taken from the United for Wildlife Taskforce video.

Investec was one of the first banks to sign up to United for Wildlife’s (UfW) Financial Taskforce. They continue to follow up on United for Wildlife’s confidential bulletin that identifies suspected parties and traffickers involved in organised crime and run their names and companies against client lists to check there is no potential overlap.

The Investec Financial Crimes team in SA, headed by Gerald Byleveld, is working closely with United for Wildlife, and leading a team aiming to increase awareness and information around the financial flows associated with IWT amongst South African banks.

The Financial Crimes team also applied a different lens to the way they analyse their existing client information. They revisited over 500 companies and individuals previously assessed as medium risk, and looked more closely at the industries in which they operate (including hunting, wildlife, game lodges, importers and exporters amongst others) and when applying the new parameters, came up with 16 that required a closer look, and whose financial transactions they are currently painstakingly going through in detail.

“We need to look at our data through a different lens and change our mindset when it comes to analysing financial flow. As the perpetrators become more innovative, so must we,” said Gerald.

“This initiative is really exciting for Investec,” says Tanya dos Santos, Global Head of Sustainability. “Through Investec Rhino Lifeline, we have been promoting biodiversity, supporting the economy of wildlife and protecting endangered species since 2013. Now, as an actively involved member of United for Wildlife’s financial task force, our passionate financial crime teams and their effective approach to anti-money laundering are playing a meaningful role, beyond awareness, in combating this global issue of illegal wildlife trade. We are using our existing systems in a way that each one of us can really make a difference.”

In December 2019, an organisation was formed, calling themselves SAMLIT (the South African Anti-Money Laundering Integrated Taskforce). SAMLIT is a public-private partnership between the banks and the Financial Intelligence Centre, and its aim is to effectively, efficiently and timeously share information and improve law enforcement’s analytical capabilities. The FIC and SAMLIT work closely with the Hawks and South African law enforcement.

Recently, United for Wildlife held an international conference, hosting some of the world’s top experts in their fields, focusing on the link between illegal wildlife trade and zoonotic diseases, such as Covid-19.

This coincided with the release of a study by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog. This inter-governmental body sets standards internationally, to prevent these illegal activities and the harm they cause to society.

HRH, the Duke of Cambridge, highlighted the opportunity arising out of the heightened awareness of public health issues. You can view the video here.

To learn more about what United for Wildlife and the task forces do, you can view the UfW brand video here, which will give you context to the importance of the roles of Financial and Transport Taskforces.