Madagascar’s rosewood traffickers laundering through the vanilla trade

Proceeds from the illicit sale of expensive Malagasy rosewood are being laundered through the country’s high value vanilla trade according to the co-founder of the environmental watchdog group, Coalition Lampogno

Clovis Razafimalala says the trade in this increasingly rare and expensive wood has been characterised by crime, fake and illegitimate permits, structural failures in permit verification and violent clashes with and amongst illegal loggers.

Proscribed commodity

Criminals in the rosewood trade have been propelled towards trade-based money laundering since the 2013 listing of Malagasy rosewood as a proscribed commodity by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Before that, it was relatively easy for the proceeds of illegal rosewood trades to be legitimised in the formal economy.

Business and politics

Lampogno has revealed how rosewood is trafficked through Maroantsetra port with the connivance of local traders supported by powerful national politicians.

None of them have been punished, but Razafimalala was accused in 2016 of instigating public unrest and spent 10 months in prison until a campaign by Amnesty International and other human rights groups forced his release.

Vanilla trade

Rosewood has become the world’s most trafficked wildlife commodity, with sales from Madagascar alone worth hundreds of millions of US dollars. Almost all of it is illegal and destined for China where it is highly valued by the furniture trade.

Since the CITES listing, the trade has slowed. But Razafimalala says the criminals that previously felled and sold rosewood quite openly are now running more clandestine operations and using their networks to launder money through the vanilla industry.

Categories: Trade Based Financial crimes News

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