Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) says Malawi is vulnerable to wildlife crimes and ancillary money laundering largely due to lack of training and inadequate resources at the disposal of investigative agencies.
The 2018 Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) Trends and Typologies Report has also revealed the connection between some mining firms operating in Malawi and wildlife crimes.
The report has raised several red flags in Malawi’s wildlife trafficking, including international funds transfer receipts not tallying with declared business and unverifiable connection between originator and beneficiary of international funds transfers.
It mentions the concealment of illegal items or contraband in regular imports, unverified financial capital investments from other jurisdictions and collusion between exporter and local officials to circumvent pre-shipment inspection and port of exit.
The report observes that there have been international money/wire transfers from high-risk jurisdictions on wildlife crime to suspected wildlife crime syndicates in Malawi and also transfers from high-risk jurisdictions on wildlife crime to people in freight forwarding business in Malawi.
Reads the report in part: “This has been unearthed through mismatch between the economic activity and the money remittance received. Other indicators include foreign nationals purportedly hiding behind legitimate business as fronts for illegal wildlife trade.”
The report connects wildlife crime to some mining firms in the country, saying there have been transfers from high-risk jurisdictions to some firms in Malawi suspected to be involved in wildlife crimes.
The report observes that in 2017, there was an interception of 422 pieces of ivory weighing 330 kilogrmmes (kg) in one of the Far East Asian countries which originated from Malawi.
Local investigations established that the ivory was shipped by a foreign national in collusion with freight forwarding companies and law enforcement agency (LEA) officers at one of the international airports in Malawi.
“The consignment, which was declared as rough stones and packed in 15 cartons weighed about two tonnes. The authorities arrested seven suspects, including one foreign national who was the main principal suspect. A further investigation established that the main suspect has a registered small mining company and was also an employee of another mining company involved in rough stones.
“Around the same period of the shipment, there was inflow of funds.
This article first appeared in The Nation Newspaper.