The Executive Director of the Ghana Wildlife Division, Mr Bernard Asamoah-Boateng, has stressed the need for the financial institutions to detect money laundering through illegal wildlife trade.
According to him, illegal wildlife trade had become a multi-billion dollar industry and wildlife criminals use sophisticated money laundering techniques to engage in such trade.
Mr Asamoah-Boateng was speaking at a national workshop for key stakeholders from Ghana’s transportation and finance sectors as well as various law enforcement agencies to identify ways to work together to tackle the urgent problem of wildlife trafficking, a blight in Ghana and the region held in Accra .
It was organised by the Wildlife Division of the Ghana Forestry Commission with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded West Africa Biodiversity and Low Emissions Development (WABiLED) programme.
WABiLED, is a four-year programme funded by the USAID with three core objectives: combat wildlife trafficking and enhance great ape conservation; reduce deforestation, forest degradation, and biodiversity loss in key trans-boundary forest landscapes; and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration from forestry and land use.
The meeting complements Ghana’s national biodiversity needs assessment conducted in April 2022 that identified priority areas of intervention for a National Wildlife Crime Strategy (NWCS), currently being considered by the Management Authority responsible for implementing Ghanaian commitments under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Mr Asamoah-Boateng who is also CITES focal point explained that illegal wildlife trade was a multi-billion-dollar industry, and wildlife criminals were known to use sophisticated money laundering techniques.
“Therefore, we need to ensure that Ghana’s financial institutions are properly equipped to detect this crime and report it to the authorities. Thus, the importance of this workshop, which brought together participants from the transport sector, financial institutions, and law enforcement agencies cannot be over-emphasised,” he said.
Naveed Khan, the WABiLED Senior Financial Crime Specialist said the programme “Provided a platform for engagement with financial institutions, the transportation, and logistics sector that are committed to fighting illegal wildlife trade.”
“The workshop is an opportunity to share best practices and pave the way for identifying focal points with the view to better coordinate future inter-sectoral events and training. It is essential that solutions consider strategic actors at national, regional, and international levels entailing a ‘whole of society’ approach to curtail and ultimately eradicate this menace. Whereas the cost of wildlife trafficking of endangered species to humanity is immeasurable, in monetary value, it is estimated that almost $24 billion dollars is generated by the criminal syndicates involved in this trade worldwide,” he said.
He said the initiative was expected to strengthen a multi-agency partnership and exchange of information between public and private institutions on combatting wildlife trafficking within Ghana.
That, he said, was in line with regional efforts being led by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to combat wildlife trafficking as envisaged in the West Africa Strategy on Combatting Wildlife Crime (WASCWC).