copy the linklink copied!3. Multi-Agency and International Co-operation

This chapter explores the concept of co-operation and co-ordination among relevant institutional actors both within a country and in the international setting. Firstly, it examines multi-agency co-operation among relevant domestic agencies, secondly, it studies co-operation among relevant international stakeholders as a response to the transnational organized crimes related to the illegal wildlife trade. Throughout, this chapter also considers the role of non-governmental actors, including international organisations and non-governmental organisations, and their impact in countering illegal wildlife trade.

    

copy the linklink copied!Introduction

There are a number of benefits to multi-agency and international co-operation to tackle illegal wildlife trade. At a domestic level, the early and close interaction of relevant competent authorities such as wildlife enforcement agencies, police, customs, financial intelligence units, anti-corruption agencies and public prosecutors can facilitate complex and multi-pronged investigations against organized criminal actors. As noted in a previous OECD report on illegal wildlife trade, the use of multi-agency task forces also increases the integrity of investigations by preventing corruption risks due to separate reporting hierarchies in the different agencies involved (OECD, 2018[1]). Multi-agency co-operation is also valuable across borders: international law enforcement networks, intelligence exchange, co-ordinated investigations, transfer of evidence through legal assistance treaties and controlled deliveries are several practical illustrations of the how international co-operation can improve institutional capacities to address illegal wildlife trade (UNODC, 2015[2]). In addition to government-to-government co-ordination, authorities also stand to benefit from co-ordination with relevant NGOs and intergovernmental organisations. As this chapter highlights, intergovernmental actors such as INTERPOL, UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), UN Development Programme (UNDP) and others can provide expertise and training, capacity building and secure international information exchange platforms for law enforcement officials. NGOs can offer field expertise, research, training, and connect a broader range of contacts that is necessary to identify key actors in complex schemes and to carry-out investigations in specific conservation areas.

This chapter first examines how each of the Southeast Asian countries leverages multi-agency co-ordination, and provides a reflection on the functioning of each model of inter-agency co-operation in each country. Secondly, the chapter reviews the forms of regional and international co-ordination efforts against illegal wildlife trade. The sections below provide analysis of multi-agency co-operation and co-ordination among relevant national agencies within each focus country.

copy the linklink copied!Multi-Agency Co-ordination and Task Forces

With the exception of Singapore, the countries studied have formalized multi-agency task forces into “wildlife enforcement networks” (WENs) to coordinate law enforcement efforts against illegal wildlife trade under different names. These WENs are implemented to co-ordinate law enforcement efforts and investigations against wildlife crimes, and are designed to integrate a number of relevant agencies.

The structure and composition of WENs are guided by roadmaps and high-level policy guidance from a range of international organisations. For example, the 2015 UN General Assembly Resolution on Tackling Illegal Wildlife Trade “encourages Member States (…) to establish national level inter-agency wildlife crime task forces, consistent with national legislation(UN, 2015[3]). Policy instruments such as the EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking, also call for “a coordination mechanism (such as an inter-agency task force and/or Memorandum of Understanding) between the relevant agencies (customs, inspection services, police, CITES management and enforcement authorities)” (EU, 2016[4]).

Practical guides for the creation and implementation of inter-agency task forces is outlined by INTERPOL, whose National Environmental Security Task Force (NEST) model is outlined below:

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Box 3.1. INTERPOL National Environmental Security Seminars (NESS) and National Environmental Task Force (NEST)

INTERPOL has co-ordinated several National Environmental Security Seminars (NESS) bringing together police, customs, environmental agencies, prosecutors, non-governmental organizations and intergovernmental partners to enhance cooperation and communication among national agencies focusing on environmental crime. These seminars encourage the creation of a National Environmental Security Task Forces (NEST) within member countries with multi-agency contact points for joint investigations and enhanced national cooperation (INTERPOL, 2013[5]). NEST Task Forces recommend the inclusion of the following agencies and administrations into the task force:

  • Police

  • Customs

  • Environment Agencies

  • Prosecutor

  • Other specialized agencies

Inter-agency co-ordination through the INTERPOL NEST model lodges wildlife crime within a broader environmental crime agenda, speaking to crime convergence zones, and recognizes the linkages with other governance issues and forms of illicit trade. For example, forest clearance and illegal logging is closely associated with the illegal killing of wildlife, which may be addressed by converging relevant institutions into a common forum to elevate the prioritisation of wildlife crimes. The INTERPOL NEST structures are reflected in the multi-agency task forces in several countries across Southeast Asia (such as Viet Nam, Thailand and Indonesia). As noted in the sections below, several of these inter-agency task forces (called WENs, or Multi-door approaches) include anti-corruption agencies as well as Financial Intelligence Units. These are not explicitly called for in the NEST model, however their inclusion in inter-agency task forces is clearly beneficial to improving institutional co-operation among relevant administrations to tackle wildlife crime, and could stand out as a best practise in other models.

The below section evaluates the use of WENs in each country, and the use of a non-WEN system in Singapore.

Thailand

The enforcement of illegal wildlife trade in Thailand is co-ordinated on a formal basis through the Thailand Wildlife Enforcement Network (Thailand WEN). The WEN leverages the expertise of several agencies for illegal wildlife trade enforcement, upstream and downstream investigations and prosecutions. The WEN enjoys a relatively high-level of communication and co-ordination between member agencies. The relevant competent authorities designated in the Thai WEN model are:

  • Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (and relevant sub-bodies)

  • Department of Fisheries

  • Royal Thai Customs

  • Royal Thai Police

  • Anti-Money Laundering Authority

The Thailand WEN also has a formalized strategic operational framework in place. The WEN conducts reporting on an annual basis to the Thailand CITES authority (Department of National parks) as well as to the ASEAN CITES Working Group. The WEN holds scheduled meetings, and sets forth action plans (only available in Thai). The Thailand WEN also publishes the results of seizures, arrests, and prosecutions on a public website. This website includes the addresses for relevant contact points in the various agencies involved in countering illegal wildlife trade. It is noteworthy that the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) is not a part of the Thai WEN or the National Ivory Acton Plan (NIAP). For criminal investigations and prosecutions, the Thai Royal Police’s National Police Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression Division (NED) is the principle actor in investigating and prosecuting wildlife crime once it has been identified.

Because of the strong interagency co-ordination established in Thailand, the agencies have reported recent successes related to illegal wildlife trade crimes, which included successful international investigations with counterparts in source countries, as well as tracing and seizure of assets and properties implicated in the crimes (Thailand AMLO, 2018[6]). The Thailand WEN investigation cited below showcases how multi-agency co-ordination through WENs has been used dismantle complex networks of transnational criminals through multi-agency co-ordination:

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Box 3.2. Thailand Wildlife Enforcement Network In Action

In 2017, Thai Customs arrested a corrupt Thai Quarantine Official trying to smuggle rhino horns into the country using store-rooms and special access at the Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport. The subsequent upstream investigation was conducted by several agencies. Through the Thailand WEN official structure, the national police’s Natural Resources Environmental Crime Suppression Division worked with the customs authorities (who made the rhino seizure), the AMLO and the CITES authority (Freeland, 2018[7]) (TRAFFIC, 2018[8]). This WEN co-ordinated investigation led to the unravelling of a complex criminal network reaching back to the source country and involving a series of arrests linked to family members of a known Thai “Kingpin” in charge of one of the largest illegal wildlife trade smuggling rings in the country. The upstream investigation also linked the arrested suspects to another three corrupt officials charged with facilitating the entry of illegal wildlife trade products into the Suvarnabhumi airport (noted in an earlier example in this report).

This “Kingpin” case is one of the first and few examples of the successful use of proceeds of crime legislation in a wildlife enforcement case as well (Thailand AMLO, 2018[6]).

The involvement of wildlife and conservation NGOs in Thailand have bolstered the success of several wildlife investigations in Thailand. Non-profit organisation have provided information, intelligence and resources to a number of cases. One such organisation is the NGO Freeland Thailand, a global non-profit working on environmental crimes and human trafficking investigation. Freeland have provided information, intelligence and resources that have contributed to a number of successful anti-trafficking cases (Freeland, 2018[7]). A range of other active NGOs have also been known to bolster environmental crime investigations, either through officer training programs, investigative assistance, or intelligence and information gathering on certain known criminal groups. In Thailand, NGOs are active in the collection of tip-offs, practical “street-level” intelligence and identification of international networks. NGOs also provide expert knowledge and guidance on complex wildlife related matters before the courts.

Despite recent successes in institutional co-ordination and the engagement of NGOs such as Freeland and others, just ten high-level cases over the past eight years have involved the use of the WEN structure. According to one respondent, securing evidence and follow-up investigations are often not enough to deter illegal wildlife trade, as there are not enough investigations underway to counter illegal wildlife trade which occurs on such a large scale (TRAFFIC, 2018[8]). Respondents also noted that multi-agency co-ordination in the Thailand WEN comes at a high-cost in resources and expertise, and various agencies such as the Financial Intelligence Unit have limited resources and expertise to dedicate to a range of crimes, several of which are given greater priority from central government (Thailand AMLO, 2018[6]). Prosecution such as confiscation of proceeds of crime and asset seizure has only been successfully used in one known case (Freeland, 2018[7]).

Thailand persists as the top markets for ivory, and several open markets continue to operate for the open sale of illegally obtained wildlife products (WildAid, 2018[9]). Nevertheless, the successful investigations and prosecutions carried out by the Thailand WEN offer a regional best practise and a precedent for future investigations. The multi-agency co-ordination enjoyed through these investigations is a model that could be streamlined and built-upon reduce future costs and increase prosecutorial effectiveness. Despite this, obstacles remain from a resource allocation and prioritisation perspective, thus pointing to a greater need for sustained high-level political support for WEN-style investigations and prosecutions of wildlife crime.

Indonesia

The Indonesian “multi-door approach” is a multi-agency co-ordination framework in place for the investigation of certain environmental crimes that include illegal wildlife trade, illegal logging and forestry crimes. This framework for multi-agency co-ordination has high potential to improve the way that the government can enforce laws related to environmental protection. The multi-door strategy covers forestry, plantation, mining, spatial planning, environment, taxation, corruption and money laundering legislation (Indonesia Customs, 2018[10]) (Indonesia MEF, 2018[11]) (Indonesia PPATK, 2018[12]). The recently developed multi-door approach calls for stronger inter-agency co-ordination between the civil investigators in the Ministry of Environment (MEF). Indonesia’s multi-door approach proposes a model of co-ordination and co-operation that responds to environmental crime with a broader range of offenses. The multi-door approach is composed of the following agencies:

  • Indonesia National Police (INP)

  • Office of the Attorney General

  • Indonesia Customs

  • Forestry (Indonesia MEF)

  • Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (PPATK)

  • Quarantine Authority

  • Indonesia Anti-Corruption Commission (KPK)

The Indonesia MEF reports that eight illegal wildlife trade cases have taken place in 2018. So far no illegal wildlife trade cases have leveraged inter-agency co-ordination through the multi-door approach. As a result, the predicate offense of the illegal trade in protected plant and animal species is exclusively used (Act No. 5 /1990 on the ‘Conservation of Living Resources and their Ecosystem’). Evidence suggests that penalties remain inadequate to deter complex illegal wildlife trade networks: monetary fines amount to a total of just USD $7,800 and the maximum imprisonment term for wildlife trafficking specifically against protected species is 5 years. Interviewees also note that over half of these cases have resulted in convictions with sentences of under two years (Indonesia National Police, 2018[13]) (Indonesia MEF, 2018[11]). Furthermore, as noted in the chapter on legal gaps and loopholes, the Act 5/1990 only considers the illegal trade in native species. Due to this legal loophole, any trade in non-native endangered species would not incur any criminal penalties under this legislation1 (ASEAN-WEN, Freeland, 2016[14]).

In Indonesia, multi-agency co-ordination for wildlife crimes does take place, however it is not structured in the multi-door process. Co-ordination among relevant agencies remains ad-hoc2, and reliant on existing bi-lateral ties between officials and actors in the various ministries and NGOs (Indonesia MEF, 2018[11]). Evidence suggests that the relevant Indonesian authorities such as Indonesia National Police and the MEF have a strong working relationship. Several relevant authorities also have a strong working relationship with intergovernmental organisations and non-governmental organisations that are active in environmental conservation. For example, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) provides capacity building, policy and strategic plan development in support of improving enforcement and prosecution of wildlife and forestry crime (UNDP, 2018[15]). NGOs are also active in providing support to Indonesian authorities. For example, the NGO Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) delivers expertise and investigative support to relevant authorities through intelligence gathering and sharing of expertise (see example below) (WCS Indonesia, 2018[16]) (Indonesia MEF, 2018[11]).

Co-ordination among NGOs and governments has led to successful, concrete law enforcement results in combatting illegal wildlife trade (Indonesia AGO, 2018[17]) (Indonesia MEF, 2018[11]). Since 2003, over 540 prosecutions of domestic poaching or trafficking and illegal wildlife trade are known to have benefitted from information and expertise provided by NGOs like WCS Indonesia and the specialized WCS Wildlife Crimes Unit (WCS Indonesia, 2017[18]). In addition certain private sector actors provide support to illegal wildlife trade investigations in Indonesia. IBM, has supplied police with new investigative technologies for a new digital “cyber patrol”, such as specialized network analysis tool called the “i2” system, which is used for gathering evidence and intelligence from seized phones (Indonesia MEF, 2018[11]) (Indonesia National Police, 2018[13]) (UNDP, 2018[15]). Once seized, investigators can use the information from communications equipment to track down wider networks of actors to broaden the net of investigations and tackle illegal wildlife trade as a form of organized crime, instead of simply focusing on the single instance of wildlife crime for which the original arrest took place.

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Box 3.3. Co-ordination between Indonesia Government and the WCS

The Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) Indonesia Wildlife Crimes Unit (WCU) works to coordinate with the national police, district police, quarantine authorities, the MEF, the financial oversight authorities and other law enforcement agencies and conservation administrations to facilitate the gathering of intelligence and information from a local informant network across several hotspots in Indonesia. The WCU also provides assistance and expertise for illegal wildlife trade related matters, and raises awareness and education of illegal wildlife trade related issues in Indonesia, particularly for domestic illegal wildlife trade trafficked out of Indonesia and into nearby destination markets. To address transnational criminal networks, the WCU also liaises directly with a close network of relevant contacts overseas to exchange information and intelligence on international trafficking cases. The WCU works with law enforcement (including district or provincial authorities) to provide intelligence in a rapid and less formal manner, as respondents have noted that official channels of information exchange can often be slow and ineffective (WCS Indonesia, 2018[16]) (Indonesia National Police, 2018[13]).

Cases

WCU has been involved in a large number of arrests and seizures to provide expert advice and guidance on the categorisation of species and the legal frameworks available for penalties and prosecutions. In 2017, WCU supported the Aviation Security in Jakarta for the arrest of a known Japanese reptile smuggler attempting to export four suitcases and a box containing 253 reptiles that included three protected species (tree pythons, tree skinks (lizard) and a pig-nosed turtle). Involvement of WCS in the process helped to deliver a two year and 11 month prison sentence and a fine of over USD $4,000.

In 2018, the WCSU WCU assisted police in the investigation and arrest of a pangolin trafficker in West Java, seizing pangolin scales and live pangolins (1.6 kg of scales and three live animals). The arrest was co-ordinated during a transaction and ended with the arrest of the trafficker (prosecution/conviction pending). WCU provided relevant information and intelligence to facilitate the arrest after several months of investigation co-ordinated with District Police (WCS WCU, 2019[19]).

Media Monitoring and Advocacy

One valuable role of the WCU has been providing journalists and media with information on illegal wildlife trade cases and prosecution results. The dissemination of this information into the media helps to make the public more aware of recent successes and prosecutions of poachers and criminal networks, and provides greater visibility to the government agencies and ministries conducting raids, seizures and arrests to counter illegal wildlife trade.

Network Analyses

The WCU team works closely with government and assists in gathering field intelligence, but also conducts cyber-monitoring using IBM i2 software systems to identify networks and to target specific individuals along the illegal wildlife trade chain.

According to intelligence and information gathered by WCS, there are two main forms of organized crime groups operating in illegal wildlife trade in Indonesia. The first group of traffickers are those who are involved in mid-level transactions and who function within the community, and are relatively poorer. These traffickers, who hunt domestic animals such as pangolins, endangered birds and reptiles often work in teams of 4-5 and they are connected via groups. They help each other out and split their earnings. Often functioning on a closed network basis. The second group are high-level, high-value traffickers of Chinese or Chinese Indonesian origin, and function along family ties with strong competition among each other. They are reported to enjoy strong protection from corrupt networks of officials, and are very wealthy. WCS notes for example that the international trade in pangolins is controlled by several Chinese Families and Vietnamese families who both export these to their respective countries (WCS Indonesia, 2018[16]).

Since it began operations in 2003, the Unit has worked with law enforcement authorities to support over 500 sting operations to arrest more than 600 wildlife trafficking criminals, with a sentencing rate of higher than 90% (WCS Indonesia, 2018[16]).

Among other forms of environmental crime, (and in contrast to the multi-door approach that has not yet been used for illegal wildlife trade) the National Task Force on Logging (created by presidential decree) has been used for several high-level multi-agency investigations. These investigations have included charges related to environmental crime, money laundering and corruption (WCS Indonesia, 2018[16]). However, in contrast to logging, illegal wildlife trade is not recognized as a similarly serious offense. Respondents from KPK noted that most illegal wildlife trade cases do not meet the minimum threshold for anti-corruption investigations. As noted earlier in this report, the KPK has a strict set of rules that at least two out of the following three conditions must be met to qualify for a Commission investigation and prosecutions (Indonesia KPK, 2018[20]). The crime in question must:

  • Involve graft in excess of $US 63,000

  • Involve a high level official

  • Involve a crime of serious public concern

If KPK thresholds are not met, any corruption cases or allegations are handed down to Indonesia National Police or other police administrations. OECD interviews indicated however that no corruption investigations relating to illegal wildlife trade have been investigated or prosecuted at the lower level, and that capacities at the police level are severely lacking to conduct such investigations.

The multi-door model has been developed as a policy framework for co-ordination and there are no directives or requirements to deliver on targets, actions and objectives (UNDP, 2018[15]). Respondents pointed out that any successful deployment of a multi-door model would also require a strategic action plan. Such an action plan could contain a number of provisions, such as those outlined in the following framework:

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Box 3.4. Example of a Strategic Action Plan Structure

As witnessed in Thailand WEN’s case, the development of strategic action plans, common reporting standards and objectives is an important tool for ensuring the implementation of multi-agency task forces. Indonesia’s numerous relevant authorities could consider a strategic action plan for implementing multi-agency co-ordination which could be based on a guideline for development such as the one outlined below:

Strategic Action Plan Structure

Vision: What is the stated common vision of the members of the multi-door approach?

Mission: Provide clear and achievable mission roles for each of the agencies involved, outline their position in the multi-agency structure

Objectives: Determine what actions and deliverables must take place for the multi-door approach to be considered successful Establish what action or change will occur as a result of the implementation of the plan (i.e. reduction in wildlife crime, seizure of assets, arrest of corrupt actors). Set a clear number of performance metrics (i.e. cases, numbers of prosecutions, number of agencies involved and resulting conviction rates) that move in the direction of meeting specific objectives

Strategies: What forums or meetings, task forces and communication plans are necessary to co-ordinate agencies and deliver on the set objectives

Communication of results and accountability: Establish a framework for accountability and transparency of the strategic action plan to hold agencies to account for their performance.

Singapore

Singapore’s Agricultural and Veterinary Authority (AVA) is the principle agency in charge of all aspects related to enforcement of wildlife crime. The AVA enforces the Endangered Species (Import and Export) (Act Chapter 92A, 2006, revised in 2008 (ESA)3, which lists the species and acts relevant to the illegal wildlife trade and the possession of endangered species. Singapore’s approach to interagency cooperation in enforcement actions against illegal wildlife trade is distinct from the other countries surveyed in this report: there are no environmental crime task forces or wildlife enforcement networks in place. Instead, the AVA provides instruction, training and expertise to other relevant authorities such as the Immigration and Customs Authority (ICA) and the national police for targeted interceptions. Singapore is therefore the only country of this study that does not have a multi-agency structure to tackle illegal wildlife trade.

On measures related to enforcement Singapore engages with several other agencies. In cases where illegal wildlife trade is suspected at the various shipping ports or land border crossings or at Changi International Airport, the AVA co-ordinates with ICA to conduct seizures or arrests at national points of entry. Within the national territory, the AVA conducts enforcement in co-ordination with the National Police to accompany the Agency make arrests and raids. The AVA does not have authority to pursue suspects and can only conduct arrests or detentions in specific un-contentious scenarios4.

There have been no known cases of illegal wildlife trade convictions in Singapore that have involved charges of organized criminal activity, money laundering offenses or offenses other than those set forth in the Revised 2008 ESA. Singapore AVA does not have a number of the capacities required to conduct transnational criminal investigations into wildlife crimes, or to independently arrest persons on suspicion of wildlife trafficking. There are no inter-agency structures of co-ordination that mandate agencies such as National Police or Customs to work pro-actively with the AVA throughout the intelligence gathering and investigatory process, and no frameworks or objectives have been set for targeting transnational organized crime and proceeds of crime.

Despite the absence of multi-agency structures to address illegal wildlife trade from as a transnational organized crime, Singapore remains an important hub for global illegal wildlife trade flows in transit or as a destination:

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Box 3.5. Large-scale illegal wildlife trade seizures in Singapore’s Major Port in-route to Viet Nam

Due to its central role in the regional economy, Singapore has been used as a hub for illegal wildlife trade as an entry point into the regional trade chain. Illegal wildlife trade products and large-scale shipments are often imported for re-export into nearby countries (ACRES, 2019[21]). Traffickers involved in this trade are often members of complex organized criminal schemes (ACRES, 2018[22]) (FD-7, 2018[23]). The original point of departure can be masked by moving through Singapore’s Free Trade Zone where companies can take advantage of Singapore’s strong security reputation and re-consign goods for re-export (Sinagpore AVA, 2018[24]). One expert noted that “IWT is just not on the agenda” for Singaporean national law enforcement authorities” (NG-03, 2018[25]).

Ivory Seizures in Singapore’s FTZ

In 2018, in co-ordination with the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network and with direction from the AVA, Singapore Customs at the Port of Singapore intercepted a large shipment of ivory in a container full of peanuts from Nigeria. Authorities seized 1,787 ivory pieces in total weighing 3.5 tons and worth over USD $2 million. The case relied on an import for re-export scheme where a Singapore-based freight forwarding company registered to a Vietnamese national would briefly import goods into Singapore’s Free Trade Zone so that they could be re-consigned and masked of their origin to be subsequently exported onwards to the final destination in Viet Nam (Sinagpore AVA, 2018[24]). In the case, authorities shared information on this seizure with the Viet Nam counterparts for further investigation in the intended country of destination. No arrests or prosecutions were made as a result of this case in Singapore.

Cases involving illegal rosewood

In 2017, Singapore Customs intercepted two large-scale shipments of rosewood and other timber in-route to Viet Nam. In these two cases, over 60 species of rosewood were seized, weighing over 3,200 and 1,200 tonnes and each worth in excess of $USD 30 million (Sinagpore AVA, 2018[24]). In one case, a Singapore based company was used as a consignee, but no arrests were made as no person could be located in connection with this company in Singapore. Authorities noted that only forestry legislation (ESA) would be used in the event of a prosecution. Here, penalties would also not exceed USD 360,000 and jail term of equivalent to several months in prison would be handed down if any suspects were apprehended.

In an effort to enhance capacities and impact, the AVA co-ordinates closely and regularly with conservation NGOs that are established in the country. In particular, the Singaporean authorities work closely with the NGO ‘Animal Concerns Research and Education Society’ (ACRES), which provides subject matter expertise on zoological matters, analysis and case referrals to the AVA for domestic seizures. The example below highlights the important synergies between the work of wildlife authorities and local NGOs. NGOs can help to bolster the institutional capacities of relevant agencies, provide subject matter expertise, policy guidance and even support functions (such as the 24-hour illegal wildlife trade reporting hotline).

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Box 3.6. ACRES NGO Co-operation with Singapore’s AVA

ACRES is a domestically operating NGO that works from the community level to focus on illegal wildlife trade within Singapore. In 2017, the ACRES group identified 111 cases of live animals for sale and 483 cases of animal parts. Most of these goods are mostly advertised online, and range in price from 60$ to nearly $2,000. The NGO also works closely with various internet marketplaces and social media platforms to identify and take down advertisements for illegal wildlife trade products. On the educational side, the ACRES foundation also works through numerous channels, including through schools to raise awareness of illegal wildlife products.

On enforcement, the NGO has provided additional resourcing to illegal wildlife trade and has acted as a supporting agency to the AVA by providing relevant information and intelligence to the Singapore’s wildlife enforcement agency to increase the number of cases, seizures and arrests. On the policy side, the NGO provides research and policy proposals to the AVA and through other channels in the Singaporean government. The ACRES group also staffs a 24-hour hotline to receive tip-offs from local Singaporeans on cases relating to illegal wildlife trade and other animal cruelty cases.

Viet Nam

In 2014, a directive from the Prime Minister ordered that all line ministries co-ordinate and make illegal wildlife trade a first-level priority. This co-ordination is formalized through the Viet Nam Wildlife Enforcement Network (Viet Nam WEN) chaired by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), which is the CITES management authority of Viet Nam. Recent amendments to the penal code in 2018 have also increased the penalties for illegal wildlife trade related offenses and strengthened the position of agencies to prosecute illegal wildlife trade5. However, in such cases, the complex organized crimes require greater institutional and investigative capacities that are predicated upon strengthened inter-agency co-ordination, exchange of information and intelligence sharing between relevant stakeholders. To this end, the CITES authority, MARD is in charge of co-ordinating and implementing anti-IWT policies and efforts for domestic and transnational organized crimes related to trafficking in wildlife products. The MARD liaises with other relevant agencies, including the Ministry of Public Safety Environmental Police, the Viet Nam Customs, Ministry of Justice and the Supreme Peoples’ Procuracy.

Respondents indicated however that the Viet Nam WEN structure is not used to its fullest potential. Despite the formalized structure and the creation of the WEN, interviewees offered no instance where the WEN network was involved in law enforcement co-ordination, investigations or prosecution for offenses such as organized crime, corruption or money laundering. Officials from the MARD noted, “While the Wildlife Enforcement Network is in place to prevent wildlife crime, the investigation remains up to each organisation to undertake.” (Viet Nam MARD, 2018[26]). Other experts explained that WEN member agencies “continue to operate in silos” with insufficient exchange of intelligence or relevant investigative information (IO-1, 2018[27]). As a result, in its present state, the WEN does not yet have a strategic implementation plan or operational group. These findings corroborate previous studies and reviews that find the WEN has not served its full purpose, despite the structures and networks that are enshrined in the Viet Nam WEN (World Bank, 2016[28]).

Engagement with Relevant NGOs and International Organisations (IOs)

Effective lines of communication are found between several leading wildlife NGOs and relevant authorities. For example, the NGO Education for Nature Viet Nam (ENV) as well as WCS both have important embedded roles in assisting with investigations of wildlife crimes (see box below). This co-ordination between relevant bodies and NGOs runs counter to the prevailing “silos” across enforcement agencies in Viet Nam.

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Box 3.7. NGO Co-ordination in Viet Nam

Education for Nature Viet Nam (ENV)

The Viet Nam-based NGO ENV collects data on illegal wildlife trade and collects courtroom results to monitor and improve prosecution rates for illegal wildlife trade offenses. To-date, the illegal wildlife trade database contains over 13,000 data points since its creation in 2005. Since 2008, the ENV group has also operated a hot line to report illegal wildlife trade crimes. By relying on strong informal networks (both domestically and internationally), the NGO helps to provide intelligence and information to governments by offering subject matter expertise and capacities. The ENV approach is one that is based on developing non-antagonistic, constructive approaches with the government. ENV works to publicize a lot of the progress, and acts as a liaison to communicate successful cases to media in a way that ensures more accountability that positively reinforces their work without denigrating the efforts of government.

Wildlife Conservation Society Viet Nam

In Viet Nam, WCS focuses on helping to raise awareness of the costs and impacts of illegal wildlife trade while also assisting law enforcement with technical assistance, training and investigatory capacities. WCS works also at the community level, working with local leaders and co-ordinating with local environmental police working directly in the field to enhance capacities and strengthen enforcement powers, even going so far as to providing equipment to forestry officials to counter domestic illegal wildlife trade risks. WCS is particularly active in several border regions that are particularly vulnerable to illegal wildlife trade. WCS conducts information and intelligence gathering, liaising with local contacts in order to produce briefings and reports for law enforcement officials on the transnational criminal networks active in the regions. The WCS program also works closely to exchange information with its WCS China counterparts in order to tackle the serious transnational criminal elements of the trafficking networks.

copy the linklink copied!International Law Enforcement Co-operation

Comprehensive international co-operation is essential to address the illegal wildlife trade. The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) is the guiding treaty for addressing serious transnational organized crime in a co-ordinated manner. State parties to the UNTOC are committed to establish a comprehensive framework, which includes several elements related to international co-operation, namely extradition (Article 16), mutual legal assistance (Article 18), joint investigations (Article 19), and strengthened international co-operation among law enforcement (Article 27) (UN, 2004[29]). This section studies these various forms of international co-operation in the focus countries.

These forms of co-operation are both formal and informal. Formal co-operation takes place through official legal channels, often across judicial authorities or designated administrations thanks to international treaties. Informal co-ordination can be meetings between law enforcement officials and exchanges of practises and operational information for investigations. Both formal and informal forms of co-ordination are necessary to strengthen international co-operation against illegal wildlife trade (UNODC, 2015[2]).

Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance

Mutual legal assistance and extradition agreements are two examples of formal international co-operation. MLATs “allow generally for the exchange of evidence and information in criminal and related matters” (US DoS, 2012[30]) For illegal wildlife trade, MLATs are the legal basis up on which countries may exchange information such as evidence, bank records, communications details and other information for use in investigations or judicial proceedings for wildlife trafficking cases. Extradition treaties set the circumstances and legal ground rules for one country surrendering an individual to another country to face prosecution for crimes committed in that country (CFR, 2019[31]). Extradition agreements can be useful for prosecuting illegal wildlife trade cases that involve members of transnational criminal syndicates operating in an international context who may be located in another country.

In 2004, all ASEAN member states enacted the Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminality Matters by Like-Minded Member Countries. This multilateral MLAT sets the framework at a regional level for reciprocal exchanges of information for the purposes of law enforcement investigations. With the exception of Cambodia (which restricts MLATs use exclusively to drug related offenses), all ASEAN members have passed laws that enable these instruments to be used for the exchange of sensitive information to be used in court (ASEAN-WEN, Freeland, 2016[14]).

According to the Freeland and the ASEAN-WEN secretariat, a number of ASEAN countries have extradition arrangements in place. As the matrix table below shows Thailand, Viet Nam and Indonesia have arrangements with four or more countries, whereas Singapore has established an extradition arrangement with just one other country.

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Table 3.1. ASEAN Bi-lateral Extradition Arrangements

Brunei

Cambodia

Indonesia

Laos

Malaysia

Myanmar

Philippines

Singapore

Thailand

Viet Nam

Brunei

X

X

Cambodia

X

X

X

Indonesia

X

X

X

X

Laos

X

X

X

Malaysia

X

X

X

Myanmar

Philippines

X

X

Singapore

X

Thailand

X

X

X

X

X

Viet Nam

X

X

X

TOTAL

2

3

4

3

3

0

2

1

5

3

Source: Freeland and ASEAN WEN research on legal instruments (ASEAN-WEN, Freeland, 2016[14]) .

In contrast to the relatively strong regional framework of treaties, there are fewer agreements in place to facilitate communication and co-ordination between relevant authorities in Southeast Asia and counterparts further afield, however. For example, respondents noted gaps in co-ordination with authorities in sub-Saharan Africa (source countries) and with European (transit and destination) countries. In one case, Indonesian prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) indicated that they had received notice of a seized illegal wildlife trade shipment from Indonesia in the Netherlands. However, since Indonesia and the Netherlands currently do not have an established MLAT, authorities were unable to proceed with the full investigation. Authorities in this case have no legal groundwork to request information pertaining to the goods seized as evidence in Europe (Indonesia AGO, 2018[17]).

In Viet Nam, respondents noted that there are liaison officers for the key investigatory agency, the Ministry of Public Safety (MPS) and their customs administration in several sub-Saharan African countries. However, as Viet Nam has not signed any MLATs with the countries in question, the MPS and customs have no legal basis for co-operation in transnational smuggling cases. Respondents also noted that there are relatively few Vietnamese liaison officers located within European (transit) countries, a major transit point for illegal wildlife trade into Asia (IO-1, 2018[27]).

In addition to gaps for legal co-operation, formal information requests suffer from backlogs and significant delays. In a 2013 report on cybercrime, the UN noted that “the mechanism [of MLATs] is challenged by long response times in practise. Countries reported median response times of 120 days for extradition requests, and 150 days for mutual legal assistance requests, received and sent (UN, 2013[32]). In the case of wildlife crime there were no reported uses of MLATs for prosecution of wildlife crimes in the criminal justice pathways in the countries studied.

Officials have also cited concerns of abuse of formal international co-operation for corrupt means. In one case, a senior official cited their experiences with evidence theft once rhino horn was returned back to a source country, which had originally requested the seized wildlife products for a prosecution (GA-3, 2018[33]).

Joint International Investigations

Joint international investigations can be defined as a range of collaborative and co-operative approaches and joint investigative practices (UNODC, 2008[34]). Joint investigations can either be parallel investigations with common goals, or single integrated investigations (UNODC, 2008[34]). These can make employ special investigative techniques such as controlled deliveries, where goods are allowed to transit a country of seizure under close supervision of authorities to identify and arrest additional perpetrators involved in the country of delivery.

The use of joint international investigations is limited in the context of wildlife crime investigations. One respondent noted that no cross-border investigations or controlled deliveries had yet to take place in the focus countries. This stands in relative contrast to other forms of serious organized crimes such as drug smuggling, which have seen co-ordinated responses (IO-1, 2018[27]).

International co-operation among law enforcement

Successful International co-operation among law enforcement can be interpreted as the fruitful interactions and exchanges between relevant law enforcement officials with their counterparts in an international context that lead to investigations, arrests, seizures and prosecutions. In the case of illegal wildlife trade, interactions with a broader and diverse network among relevant countries are likely to bring a positive impact on the capacities to co-ordinate, gather information and intelligence and investigate international criminal syndicates engaged in the illegal wildlife trade.

To co-operate effectively, relevant law enforcement officials may use existing channels hosted by organisations such as INTERPOL (for police) or the World Customs Organisation (WCO) (for customs), or can exchange directly. Informal law enforcement co-operation requires a strong network of relevant officials (connected to CITES and other relevant officers) who have established contact and trust among each other (or through some form of trust-building mechanism) in order to exchange sensitive and useful information pertinent to advancing investigations.

A range of respondents reported successful informal information exchanges between counterpart agencies that led to investigations and prosecutions. Often, such exchanges were reported to have taken place at meetings or workshops and through subsequent follow-up calls and messages once a network had been established (Sinagpore AVA, 2018[24]) (Indonesia National Police, 2018[13]). International co-operation is also reportedly enhanced by non-governmental actors. Law enforcement agencies work closely with NGOs and international organisations, who facilitate contacts among international counterpart agencies at events, or through training seminars or through mutual networks of contacts (ENV Viet Nam, 2018[35]) (WCS Indonesia, 2018[16]). Importantly, respondents noted that trust-building is vital to successful international co-operation for informal exchanges of information (GA-3, 2018[33]) (APCEL, 2018[36]) (INTERPOL, 2018[37]). This level of trust is not only important due to corruption risks, but also to strengthen a mutual understanding of objectives and aims among officials who can offer further assistance and peer-based learning for future cases.

Despite the added-value brought to trafficking investigations from informal co-operation, it remains difficult quantify their impact. While some information exchange platforms (such as those hosted by INTERPOL) do measure the number of messages exchanged (and results), other less formalised exchanges are not reported or recorded.

Regional Dynamics of Co-ordination in Southeast Asia

Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam are all members of the regional intergovernmental organisation ASEAN. Recent multi-national efforts through the ASEAN forum have focused on wildlife and timber trafficking in the region. A common willingness to increase attention on the topic of illegal wildlife trade has been formalised through recently created ASEAN working structures, including through the regional ASEAN CITES enforcement groups (formerly ASEAN WEN) and the latest ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crimes (SOMTC).

The ASEAN wildlife Enforcement network (WEN) was created in 2005, and acted as co-ordinating body for illegal wildlife trade within the ASEAN secretariat. The ASEAN WEN was developed through high-level political support to enhance co-ordination among environmental and CITES authorities. The ASEAN WEN secretariat was located in Thailand, and addressed trafficking in illegal wildlife in Asia by reducing consumer demand, strengthening law enforcement and improving regional cooperation and anti-trafficking networks. From 2009-2014, the ASEAN WEN reported over 8,000 cases of illegal wildlife trade seizures and arrests, and noted a tenfold increase in the number of reported wildlife cases. (USAID, 2014[38]). The ASEAN WEN structure was formed with the support of international agencies and partners (such as USAID and Freeland) who assisted in providing funding and training, legal guidance and reviews and expert analyses to help enhance the multi-lateral co-ordination of illegal wildlife trade. In several cases, wildlife enforcement authorities used the ASEAN WEN contact points to exchange and information sharing to conduct independent seizures. For example, Singaporean authorities noted that information received through the ASEAN WEN network was instrumental in the seizure of a large-scale shipment of ivory (Sinagpore AVA, 2018[24]).

Several officials interviewed noted that the ASEAN WEN network was limited in its effectiveness to address and prosecute illegal wildlife trade as a transnational crime. Despite having the subject matter expertise for wildlife crimes, CITES authorities (who remained the primary interlocutors for the ASEAN WEN) generally do not have the institutional capacities or resource to co-ordinate complex investigations involving transnational organized crime. The ASEAN WEN also does not operate a standing task force or series of working groups with set operational plans or objectives (IO-1, 2018[27]) (ENV Viet Nam, 2018[35]). As a result, enforcement efforts like controlled deliveries or joint multi-national investigations are not facilitated through the ASEAN WEN (IO-1, 2018[27]). Operations and investigations which involved international law enforcement co-operation were conducted within parallel informal multi-lateral channels instead: Officials relied on informal networks co-ordinated through on mobile applications (such as WhatsApp) to engage networks for rapid communications between law enforcement contacts (Indonesia MEF, 2018[11]). In 2017, the ASEAN WEN was merged with the ASEAN Experts Group on CITES (AEG) to co-ordinate more closely on the development or a strategic plan with a stronger focus on policy, training and the co-ordination among national wildlife enforcement networks in place across the ASEAN members (CITES, 2017[39]) (Indonesia MEF, 2018[11]) (IO-1, 2018[27]).

Under the leadership of Thailand, the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Organised Crime (SOMTC) created the Working Group on Illicit Trafficking in Wildlife and Timber in 2018 (GA-3, 2018[33]). Experts have noted that the creation of the SOMTC Working-group marks a shifting perception among governments that illegal wildlife trade is a transnational organised crime (UNODC, 2018[40]). The creation of the SOMTC illegal wildlife trade Working Group highlights how illegal wildlife trade cannot only be handled by environmental and CITES authorities. The addition of illegal wildlife trade to the SOMTC agenda also suggests new opportunities for joint-investigations into international corruption, serious organized crime and potentially money laundering and illicit financial flows6. Respondents have noted that the creation of the SOMTC is encouraging, but to ensure the success of this new Working Group, they noted that governments must dedicate more time and resource to building specific targeted strategies and task forces to meet objectives. This can ensure that the SOMTC may become operational beyond the initial design phase (which has been an obstacle in previous iterations of regional illegal wildlife trade efforts) (IO-1, 2018[27]). At the national level in each country, the inclusion of illegal wildlife trade into the agenda also will help improve the profile of this issue among other serious crimes. The ASEAN SOMTC working group on illicit trafficking in wildlife and timber met first in March 2018. The SOMTC continues to involve relevant law enforcement officials and CITES officers in these meetings.

International Dynamics of co-ordination

INTERPOL supports law enforcement agencies in its member countries by facilitating global information sharing on environmental criminal networks and targets, enhancing cooperation among source, transit and destination countries, and building operational capacity within law enforcement agencies.

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Box 3.8. INTERPOL Environmental Security Unit

INTERPOL Environmental Security Unit

The INTERPOL Environmental Security Unit consists of four global enforcement teams − focusing mainly on fisheries, forestry, pollution and wildlife crime − that support member countries in dismantling environmental criminal networks. This is done by providing law enforcement agencies with the tools and expertise they need to protect the environment from being exploited by criminals.

The Unit offers investigative support to international environmental criminal cases through an intelligence-led approach, enhancing the sharing of information among countries and the coordination of global operations.

Each INTERPOL member country hosts an INTERPOL National Central Bureau (NCB). This connects their national law enforcement with other countries and with the General Secretariat via our secure global police communications network called I-24/7.

In some instances, respondents pointed to the successful use of INTERPOL contact points and the use of the I-24/7 secure messaging system to exchange information on IWT seizures. For example, Singaporean authorities reported that data and information was fed across INTERPOL NCBs with Vietnamese counterparts in the case of several high-profile ivory and wood seizures in Singapore in route to Viet Nam (Sinagpore AVA, 2018[24]). However, some respondents also noted that the centralized nature of police to police co-operation can discourage the use of INTERPOL systems for the exchange of time-sensitive operational information. According to Experts familiar with international investigations pointed out that the NCBs located within national police headquarters are highly centralized. Resourcing and compatibility issues (“red-tape”), as well as legal considerations remain problematic. Therefore, wildlife crime is not given significant priority for police to police co-operation (IE-1, 2019[41]). Consequently, respondents noted that INTERPOL remains under-used for the purposes of IWT co-operation for investigations and enforcement. Instead, officials rely on personal networks of contacts, liaising through applications such as WhatsApp for rapid exchanges of information and details (Indonesia National Police, 2018[13]).

copy the linklink copied!Conclusion

This chapter provided a review of the institutional capacities in each focus country to leverage multi-agency co-ordination in the effort to deter or combat the illegal wildlife trade. From the research conducted, Thailand is the only country that has made use of its multi-agency task force, the Thailand Wildlife Enforcement Network (WEN), to counter illegal wildlife trade. This WEN has led to several successful enforcement actions against networks of traffickers, notably cases that have involved the financial investigation, asset seizure and forfeiture for transnational criminal networks. Despite the recent successes, the use of the WEN, remains infrequent. In the case of the other focus countries, researchers found no evidence of multi-agency co-operation leading successful investigations: Across the four countries of focus, the vast majority of wildlife crimes involving transnational networks, money laundering and other crimes in the region (including corruption related offenses) do not involve upstream of downstream investigations. Consequently, the primary means of producing evidence for convictions continues to be catching criminals in the act. All of the focus countries are reliant on predicate offenses of wildlife trafficking or trading in endangered species.

This chapter also examined the role of international law enforcement co-operation in enhancing institutional capacities to counter illicit trade. There are a number of formalized arrangements in place between the various ASEAN members, including Mutual Legal Assistance treaties (MLATs) and extradition arrangements between the regional members. In addition, there are a number of newly formed networks for the informal (non-MLAT) co-operation, including the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC) working group on illicit trafficking in wildlife and timber, and the ASEAN Experts Group on CITES. The former, the SOMTC, offers new opportunities for stronger multi-agency investigations at the international level, and the latter, an experts group between CITES management authorities, can offer better co-ordination for policy development and awareness among wildlife authorities of the multi-national dimension of wildlife crime.

Between relevant counterparts in police or CITES authorities, respondents also noted a growing level of informal co-ordination and co-operation for sharing of information. A number of recent cases have involved regional communication and co-ordination, particularly in scenarios where illegal wildlife trade may be intercepted in-transit towards another ASEAN member country. However, as this chapter has also noted, there are fewer multi-national instances of co-operation for countries further afield in source or transit countries across Southern and Eastern Africa or Europe.

Few legal arrangements are in place between law enforcement agencies in the region and law enforcement in source countries to formally exchange information. Contact points between African and Southeast Asian law enforcement counterparts are not well developed when it comes to combatting the illegal wildlife trade. Vital channels of police to police exchange and communication between source and transit economies from Africa to Southeast Asia are largely unused due to inefficiencies, compatibility issues and long response times. Furthermore, there is a notable breakdown in institutional co-ordination, and absence of trusted counterparts for cases involving southern and eastern African countries. Respondents also pointed to corruption risks and lack of contact as reasons for breakdowns in correspondence and co-ordination.

The findings from this chapter point to a greater need for multi-agency co-ordination at the national level and at the international level to ensure the success of complex upstream and downstream investigations. To achieve this, governments may wish to consider developing strategic action plans or roadmaps outlining specific targets, and outlining the relevant agencies’ roles and responsibilities, and measurable performance indicators for countering illegal wildlife trade. There is also a need to establish more effective professional networks of law-enforcement officials across continents in source, transit and destination countries that can find suitable alternatives when formal processes for law enforcement exchanges are moving too slowly. There is also a need to establish a number of MLATs between these same countries to foster the exchange of formal evidence in support of prosecutions.

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Notes

← 1. In some cases, smugglers have been charged with violations to Law No. 16 year 1992, on animal, fish and plant quarantine. Criminal penalties could take place for the predicate offense of smuggling wildlife products in violation of CITES at border crossings, however no clear evidence suggests that smuggling offenses have led to convictions.

← 2. While not formally through any “multi-door” structure, several recent cases have still involved some degree of co-ordination and communication between the MEF, INP and Customs.

← 3. Other legislation includes: the Wild Animal and Birds Act, Chapter 351, 1965, revised in 2000 4. Wild Animals (Licensing) Order, 1990, revised in 1992 5. Animals and Birds Act, Chapter 7 [as amended by the Animals and Birds (Amendment) Act No. 46 of 2014

← 4. Such scenarios include civil detention where there is no resistance, and for limited periods of time before handover to police.

← 5. Under Viet Nam’s reformed penal code for the protection of wildlife (Law No. 12/2017/QH14 dated June 20, 2017 of the National Assembly on amending the Criminal Code No.100/2015/QH13), penalties have gone from five years to 15 years, with a penalty of up to USD $600,000 from USD $50,000. These laws came into force January 1, 2018.

← 6. Investigations on AML and could take place if investigators liaise effectively with officials within their respective financial intelligence units.

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3. Multi-Agency and International Co-operation