Links to other illegal activities
Wildlife crime can be linked to other criminal activities or other administrative or civil law infringements.
Offenders can make wildlife crime look like an activity which is in full compliance with the law, e.g. through document fraud. This is often the case with wildlife trafficking. Due to the documents required and complex regulations to follow and enforce on different levels, offenders may take advantage of any gaps in the law and law enforcement officers’ knowledge.
Wildlife trafficking has also moved online, which requires an appropriate response from the authorities. Cyber-enabled crime serves the needs of illicit demand. Criminals on the online market can be connected directly and sell products anonymously across the globe. Mainstream social media networks and e-commerce companies also have a responsibility to help tackle wildlife crime online with the help of competent authorities.
Corruption and related financial crimes
Bribes and other forms of corruption are also often linked with wildlife trafficking. Corruption can occur throughout the illicit trade chain. Corruption covers a wide range of activities, from turning a blind eye to illegal incidents to even high-ranking officials being deeply involved in criminal activities or exerting pressure on law enforcement to impede investigations. In addition, immense profits are realised directly from the selling of protected species or their derivatives. Such illicit proceeds from criminal activities related to wildlife are then often laundered. Yet, financial investigations and “following the money” approaches while tackling wildlife crime are not widely used. Along with civil society, affected communities, and experts, the private sector and banks are also essential partners to have on board for effective investigation and enforcement. Significant disparities in whistle-blower protection or a lack thereof can impact investigations of corrupt practices in the sectors, which depend on resources from the wild.
Furthermore, offences related to non-payment of administrative fees, breaches of Customs regulations, and tax evasion could go hand in hand with wildlife crime. The consequence is harmful to the economy, the state budget and local communities’ incomes. Moreover, they pose a real threat to the operators that abide by the rules, pay the fees and taxes, and therefore have to face unfair competition to those who are not compliant.
Civil law liability
Establishing criminal responsibility is essential when fighting against wildlife crime. In many legal systems however, the restoration of nature or the deprivation of illicit economic benefits from the offenders could not be resolved within the limits of a criminal procedure. States choose different regulatory approaches; nevertheless, it is not the initial objective of a criminal court to decide on reparative or compensatory measures. The questions regarding the extent and the costs of damage in nature and biodiversity also go beyond the criminal aspects of illegal activities. There is a chance that criminal sanctions could not have the intended deterrent effect in some instances. However, a civil law court ordering compensation in a sentence would complement the criminal procedure, especially in cases where the financial gains by far exceed the imposable penalties. Even though the LIFE SWiPE project directly does not deal with such cases, civil law claims could also be a valuable tool in tackling wildlife crime.