Global Threat Assessment
by John Cusack
Despite the limitations presented in estimating criminal activity designed to be hidden, the results in the Global Threat Assessment present a bleak picture.
Criminal markets are generating more illicit funds than at any other time in our history, with ever more harmful effects inflicted against every Country, against billions of people and against our increasingly fragile environment.
We are witnessing the transformation of organised crime into very big business, leveraging networks to connect criminal actors, adopting poly criminality, embracing new cyber tools and opportunities afforded by the transformation to digital.
How big, which Countries, by what Methods and by which Gangs, is summarised in this Global Threat Assessment, using over 100 publicly available studies or reports from credible sources, together with personal observations and recommendations from the author.
This is an extract from the Intelligence Briefing on Illegal Wildlife Trafficking by Financial Crime News. To obtain a copy of the Briefing contact FCN directly.
Wildlife Trafficking endangers many species, with particular concern over iconic African mammals, such as the Elephant and the Rhino, but also the Pangolin, which is the most trafficked mammal of all, Gorillas, Big Cats, Reptiles, Birds (like the African Grey Parrot) and wildlife from outside Africa.
Wildlife Trafficking generates significant proceeds from Elephant, Rhino and Pangolin markets.
The Elephant Ivory market is valued at approximately US$240 million to $720, with the Rhino market valued at between US$91 million and $698 million and for Pangolin’s the market is estimated at US$46 million annually.
Wildlife Trafficking in Elephant Ivory, Rhino Horn and Pangolin Meat and Scales is undertaken alongside other crimes, not just those to facilitate the illicit trade like corruption and forgery of documents, and the killing of rangers, and by organised criminal gangs also involved in drugs, arms, goods and human trafficking as well as in some cases links have been drawn to terrorist groups operating in Africa..
Illegal Fishing represents one of the largest markets open to and exploited by organised criminal groups, but beyond overfishing and the environmental challenges this brings, other serious crimes are also involved, including drugs and human trafficking, corruption and tax evasion, particularly effecting developing Countries. its time Illegal fishing was considered as a major financial crime issue as well as an environmental one. For more read the Intelligence Briefing on IUU Fishing by FCN.
With fish and other aquatic animals an important part of many peoples diet, it’s estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, that we catch approximately 171 million metric tons (likely more than 2 trillion fish) annually (2016) worth an estimated USD362 billion.
On a recent visit to South Africa, Financial Crime News was delighted to meet with Nic Swingler Head Financial Crime Compliance at Absa Group Limited, who in an interview discussed the fight against financial crime on the African continent and in South Africa in particular.
FCN: How did you come into your current role?
NS: I am not a Financial Crime “lifer” and this role was not really part of my early career planning! Previously I was the COO for our Corporate & Investment Bank. The front line experience I gained over many years as well as direct exposure to products, operations, technology platforms and data were amongst the key attributes required to enable and deliver a high quality risk management capability across Financial Crime Compliance.
On 13 June 2019, the US Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York indicted four individuals, Moazu KROMAH, Amara CHERIF, Mansur Mohamed SURUR, and Abdi Hussein AHMED charged with participating in a conspiracy to traffic more than US$7 million in rhino horns and elephant ivory. In addition, KROMAH, CHERIF, and SURUR were charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, and SURUR and AHMED were charged with participating in a conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 10 kilograms of heroin. One of those charged is now in the US, another awaiting extradition in Senegal and two remaining Kenyans still at large, on the run.
This is not just important in terms of the action taken but how co operation across agencies and between public and private sectors and effective information sharing made a difference.
Virtual Currencies (VC) have come a long way in the 10 years since Bitcoin first emerged, born out of the financial crises and now a decade later they are considered part of the financial landscape. With more than 1,000 VC’s to choose from, tens of millions of customers use VC whether as a store of value, unit of account and/or as a payment medium. As with any currency, there are those minorities that use it to further illicit acts. Criminals have recognised that VC has unique properties that could potentially serve their interests in laundering illicit funds and evading law enforcement. Users of VC employ pseudonyms rather than names, funds can be transferred without intermediaries and across international borders as easily as sending email.
Is Money Laundering a modern phenomena?
Whilst the term “money laundering” in the sense we understand it now was first used in print in 1973 during the Watergate scandalmoney laundering as a practice reaches much further back into history. Its origins may lie as far back as 4,000BC when Chinese merchants found ways to conceal or move assets accumulated through trade in order to avoid confiscation. We can see many of the actions that form the basis for money laundering throughout history; such as the trafficking of opium after cultivation of the opium poppy began in c. 3400BC, counterfeiting of coins recorded in 640BC, the case of Hegestratos’ Fraud in 300BC, or Roman laws addressing forgery which were enacted through 80BC.
So called laundromats, like the Russian, Azerbaijani and Troika laundromats are making headlines, tarnishing once stellar reputations, and leading to serious questions about their prevalence, how they operated and for so long, why more wasn’t done and what lessons can be learned and actions taken to prevent these laundromats from washing dirty money in the future. This article on laundromats, provides an explanation and commentary on these matters.
These laundromats, are neither discreet events nor simple in construction. Indeed, the very reason they are referred to as “laundromats” rather than simple “money laundering” examples is indicative of a professionally run business rather than a one off event. They do not represent the efforts of corrupt politicians or organised criminal gangs laundering the proceeds of their own crimes, rather they are run by separate, professional money launderers who, for a fee, will clean up ill-gotten gains for just about anyone.