United for Wildlife Taskforce meeting, St James’s Palace, 21 January 2019

Remarks by David Lewis, FATF Executive Secretary
St James’s Palace, 21 January 2019

[As delivered]

The Financial Action Task Force was created 30 years ago by the G7 in order to tackle the cartels by taking the money out of drugs trafficking. It evolved to cut off funds from terrorism, and to prevent the financing of weapons of mass destruction. It exists to reduce the harm to people and society by serious crime and terrorism, by following the money. 

The opportunity for the Financial Action Task Force to make a difference and the need for everyone to play their part has never been greater. So too the threat to our wildlife has never been greater. As you know, wildlife trafficking is the fourth most profitable criminal enterprise, with the same organised crime groups active in drugs, people and arms trafficking. The money generated is substantial and that means the vulnerability of the criminal networks involved is also substantial.

So when China took the presidency of the FATF this year, and I saw the inspiring work being done by the Royal Foundation, and in particular the United for Wildlife’s Financial Taskforce, the opportunity to extend the financial fight to those causing harm to our wildlife and natural environment, became clear and pressing.

Thanks to the United for Wildlife’s Financial Taskforce, more than 30 financial institutions globally have committed to help fight this scourge. Their efforts - your efforts - need the authorities to act on the information and intelligence generated by treating this as a financial crime. Financial Intelligence Units provide the link between you and the agencies responsible for investigating and prosecuting these crimes. 

The Financial Action Task Force today brings together not only its own 39 member governments, but more than 200 governments committed to acting on our recommendations and to being held to account through our evaluations. This includes 164 Financial Intelligence Units - independent authorities charged with receiving and analysing suspicious transaction reports and disseminating them to law enforcement agencies, and that actively cooperate through the Egmont Group to inform global action and ensure that action does not stop at the border.

The objective for the Financial Action Task Force, and the priority of the Chinese presidency this year, is to make sure that every Financial Intelligence Unit in the world is aware of this criminal activity and what they can do to stop it. With the help of United for Wildlife’s Financial Taskforce, the Financial Action Task Force is raising the awareness of the authorities that need to act and we are developing practical guidance to help them detect and investigate the financial flows involved.

So, on behalf of the FATF President, and of all our member jurisdictions, thank you for driving this vital work and enabling this public-private partnership to put an end to the illegal trade in wildlife.