PRETORIA—Following Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen’s commitment earlier this year to form a U.S.-South Africa Task Force on Combating the Financing of Wildlife Trafficking (Task Force), a delegation from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, led by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), traveled to South Africa for the first meeting of the Task Force. The Task Force is a partnership between the U.S Treasury and South Africa’s National Treasury dedicated to combatting illicit finance related to wildlife trafficking, and representatives from United Kingdom law enforcement also joined these discussions. Officials from all three countries also participated in a three-day workshop on counter terrorist financing. These meetings are the latest steps in operationalizing the U.S.-South Africa Task Force to enhance global efforts to disrupt the financing of wildlife trafficking and reaffirm our partnership with South Africa to counter the financing of terrorism.
“The work of this Task Force is critically important,” said FinCEN Acting Deputy Director Jimmy Kirby, who headed the Treasury delegation. “Wildlife trafficking not only impacts the environment but also generates illicit proceeds used by criminals and terrorist organizations to fund their activities. We’re proud to partner with South Africa to target this illegal and environmentally detrimental activity.”
FinCEN’s 2021 Financial Threat Analysis highlighted that wildlife trafficking is a major transnational organized crime that fuels corruption, threatens biodiversity, damages fragile ecosystems, and can have a significant adverse impact on public health and the economy. Wildlife traffickers use the international financial system to move, hide, and launder their proceeds, enabling further wildlife crimes and other illicit activities. The U.S. Government continues to prioritize this issue, with particular focus on the risks outlined in the U.S. 2022 National Money Laundering Risk Assessment.
FinCEN’s participation in the Task Force reinforces the U.S. Government’s commitment to protect wildlife populations from further poaching and disrupt the associated illicit trade through the identification and seizure of the proceeds generated from the wildlife trafficking. In line with the commitments of the Task Force, the Task Force meeting was also attended by representatives from non-profit entities, financial institutions, law enforcement and government agencies. All attendees committed to advancing the goals of the Task Force through continued collaboration, including leveraging the collaborative power of each countries’ public-private partnerships: the South African Anti-Money Laundering Integrated Task Force (SAMLIT) and the FinCEN Exchange.
Similarly, U.S. and South African government authorities reaffirmed their commitment to addressing how illicit finance funds both regional and global terrorist groups. They discussed emerging terrorism trends in Africa, as well as areas where both governments could enhance cooperation on this challenge.