‘Following the money’ can beat wildlife crime
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.