AUSTRAC’s Fintel Alliance receives INTERPOL award for protecting wildlife from criminal exploitation

AUSTRAC’s Fintel Alliance has been awarded the Partnerships in Conservation Award by INTERPOL in recognition of its contribution to protecting wildlife from illegal trafficking.

The win by Fintel Alliance is notable in a year when the International Criminal Police Organization received a record number of nominations for the Wildlife Crime Working Group (WCWG) awards. The award underscores the success of the first collaboration between Fintel Alliance and the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE), whose expertise was critical to complete the picture around the threats targeting Australia’s wildlife.

It also reinforces the impact that close cooperation with the major Australian banks, as well as companies in the financial sector like PayPal Australia and Western Union, can have in disrupting crime.

Illegal wildlife trafficking is a global issue that spans multiple industries, including transport, customs clearance, and online vendors. INTERPOL’s WCWG brings together stakeholders from a range of agencies and industries to form a multi-sector body targeting wildlife crime.

What is the link between wildlife trafficking and organised crime?

Exotic flora and fauna command high prices on the black market, their scarcity driving lucrative prices, especially for endangered species. Australia’s unique biodiversity makes it an attractive target for organised crime groups due to demand from collectors, with some Australian reptiles being sold for up to $20,000 on the black market.

The illegal wildlife trade is big business for organised crime syndicates, generating revenues of up to $23 billion annually. Criminal organisations have established entire supply chains targeting wild flora and fauna, replicating trafficking routes and methodologies used in other illicit activities including drug trafficking and money laundering.

How does AUSTRAC’s Fintel Alliance combat illegal wildlife trafficking?

The analytic capability within AUSTRAC’s Fintel Alliance has enabled the investigation of transactions across the financial sector with indicators of illegal trafficking of Australian wildlife. The effectiveness of applying financial network analysis in the context of environmental crimes is a model that Fintel Alliance has shared with international partners.

AUSTRAC National Manager Intelligence Partnerships, Jon Brewer, said that wildlife crimes span multiple borders and diverse markets, so an international approach is needed.

“Leveraging AUSTRAC’s long standing international partnerships, Fintel Alliance shared financial intelligence that led to the targeting and disruption of transnational organised criminal networks involved in the illegal wildlife trade,” Mr Brewer said.

“Criminals rely on financial services to enable their activities, so the financial sector plays an important role in protecting Australian native species against exploitation by collectors onshore and abroad.”

“Fintel Alliance receiving this award highlights the diverse capability of this public-private financial partnership, including in combatting environmental crime. Pooling intelligence with government agency partners like DAWE resulted in a multiplier effect, and increased our reach in disrupting crime.”

AUSTRAC’s Fintel Alliance is a world leading public-private partnership between law enforcement and the financial industry, that develops shared intelligence to detect and disrupt serious crime, including illegal wildlife trafficking.

Find out more in the Illegal wildlife trafficking financial crime guide