Financial institutions’ critical role in combatting wildlife trafficking outlined in new FinCEN report

The US treasury department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has released a Financial Threat Analysis on wildlife trafficking threat patterns and trend information identified in Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) data.

The report aims to further inform efforts to combat wildlife trafficking and the associated movement of illicit proceeds, which are estimated to be between US$7 and US$23 billion a year and account for a quarter of all wildlife trade.

Impact on financial sector

FinCEN’s analysis of wildlife trafficking-related suspicious activity reports (SARs) indicates that wildlife trafficking is affecting the US financial sector.

Wildlife trafficking related SARs filed between January 2018 and October 2021 increased dramatically while SARs filed in 2021 are on track to meet or exceed the amount of SARs filed in 2020 based on current trends.

The report demonstrates the “critical role that financial institutions play in identifying wildlife trafficking and protecting the US financial system from associated illicit finance through compliance with their BSA obligations,” according to FinCEN acting director Himamauli Das.

Reasons for concern

FinCEN is calling attention to the threat of illicit financing associated with wildlife trafficking for three reasons.

Financing associated with the trade is strongly associated with corruption and transnational criminal organisations, two of FinCEN’s national anti-money laundering and counter financing of terrorism priorities.

FinCEN also sees a need to enhance reporting and analysis of wildlife trafficking related illicit financial flows. It is also concerned about wildlife trafficking’s contribution to biodiversity loss and damage to fragile ecosystems.

FinCEN’s report, Financial Threat AnalysisIllicit finance threat involving wildlife trafficking and related trends in Bank Secrecy Act data can be found here.


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