Alarm sounded over TBML and failures to conduct financial investigations in African environmental crimes

Tanzanian authorities failed to undertake financial investigations in a major case concerning wildlife poaching while illicit actors in Madagascar’s lucrative vanilla trade are turning to trade-based money laundering (TBML) says the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime (GITOC).

No financial investigation was ever undertaken in the case of alleged elephant poacher, Boniface Mathew Malyongo, who successfully appealed in a Tanzanian court against a conviction for ‘leading organised crime’, according to a GITOC report.

In a recent risk bulletin, the initiative says Madagascar’s vanilla industry has become a magnet for corruption, money laundering and criminality.

Vanilla and rosewood trade

Around 80 per cent of the world’s vanilla is grown in the mountainous regions of Madagascar. Extraordinary price rises in recent years have been a boon for the country’s vanilla producers and exporters, but have also brought rising criminality according to an article in the September issue of GITOC’s East and Southern Africa Risk Bulletin.

Activists and companies in the vanilla business have argued that vanilla prices have been artificially inflated by rosewood traders speculatively buying into vanilla as a form of TBML

Market changes

The article says that the leading businesspeople controlling the vanilla trade are also trafficking rosewood, one of Madagascar’s most significant illicit markets.

The market is now changing, and criminal activity has followed suit. In response to falling prices, the Malagasy government has imposed minimum prices for vanilla exports, but this move has provided an opening for new forms of money laundering and corruption the article concludes.

No financial investigation

Tracking Blood Money, Financial investigations into wildlife crime in East Africa investigates the case of Boniface Mathew Malyongo, allegedly one of the most prolific elephant poachers and ivory traffickers in the world who successfully appealed in a Tanzanian court against a conviction for ‘leading organised crime’.

No financial investigation was ever undertaken in this case according to the report which says the opportunity was missed to unravel the financial threads underpinning an alleged transnational syndicate.

Officials deserve scrutiny

GITOC says no attempt was made to produce evidence showing how the syndicate financed its operations, where the money originated, how it flowed or how it was laundered.

While Malyongo has now been found innocent, the conduct of the public officials in this case, the police and prosecutors, is a matter that deserves scrutiny the report concludes.

GITOC’s East and Southern Africa Risk Bulletin, September 2021 can be found here.

Tracking Blood Money, Financial investigations into wildlife crime in East Africa can be found here.



Categories: Trade Based Financial crimes News

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