Illegal wildlife and logging trades targeted by new G7 agreement to strengthen beneficial ownership registries

G7 finance ministers have agreed to implement and strengthen registries of company beneficial ownership information in their respective jurisdictions.

The UK says this a major step forward in global efforts to tackle illicit finance and will also boost the country’s work as G7 President to tackle environmental crimes such as the illegal wildlife trade and illegal logging.

Progress so far

The UK, and the EU states in the G7, have implemented public beneficial ownership registries. The US and Canada have also recently announced plans for beneficial ownership registries in their jurisdictions.

All European G7 members are committing to strengthen their existing beneficial ownership registers.

Impact on illegal wildlife trade

The UK says beneficial ownership information has helped it to prevent illegal wildlife trading.

In one case, co-operation between UK and European authorities recently led to the conviction of a glass eel trafficker with alleged proceeds of some US$75 million.

Detecting links

In this case the UK Border Force seized a consignment of glass eels – the most trafficked protected species in Europe – which the wildlife trafficker was trying to export to Hong Kong, despite it being illegal to sell them beyond Europe.

The National Crime Agency found a link between the named recipient of the consignment and a company called ICE Ltd, and information held by a UK companies registry showed that the trafficker owned 80 per cent of that company.

Affiliated companies

Financial investigators used invoices sent to the trafficker’s affiliated companies and his personal and business bank account records to establish the payment flows between different entities.

These included wire transfers to the barn that was holding the eels in the UK and firms that were shipping the eels to South East Asia, large payments from several companies in South East Asia and cash withdrawals from ICE Ltd after these payments.

The NCA established that the trafficker was trading protected species using ICE Ltd for over two years, selling over 1,775 kilograms of eels. He was ultimately convicted of the illegal importation and movement of protected species.

Categories: Trade Based Financial crimes News

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