‘Fol­low­ing the money’ can beat wildlife crime

The Courier-Mail - - WORLD -

BANGKOK: In most cases, the con­vic­tion of a Thai man traf­fick­ing rhino horns through a bizarre scheme that in­volved hir­ing pros­ti­tutes to pose as tro­phy hunters would have marked the end of the story.

But in­ves­ti­ga­tors de­cided to “fol­low the money” that helped bankroll the South African op­er­a­tion. That led to a court or­der last year to seize Chum­long Lem­tongthai’s Thai bank ac­counts and other as­sets, in­clud­ing a $142,000 house, to shut him down.

It was one of an in­creas­ing num­ber of cases il­lus­trat­ing how na­tions are shift­ing tac­tics in fight­ing a $23 bil­lion global wildlife traf­fick­ing mar­ket, af­ter decades of re­ly­ing on po­lice raids that have had lit­tle ef­fect in halt­ing il­licit trades.

The idea is “to pick the pocket of the wildlife traf­fick­ers and try to freeze them in their tracks,” Steve Gal­ster, founder of the anti-traf­fick­ing Free­land Foun­da­tion, said.

The UN Gen­eral Assem­bly this week urged the world’s na­tions to adopt laws that al­low wildlife crimes to be in­ves­ti­gated as po­ten­tial money-laun­der­ing crimes.

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