Transnational Organized Crime and
the Illegal Wildlife Trade
Jorge Eduardo Rios
Coordinator, UNODC Anti-Wildlife and Forest Crime Programme
ADB Symposium on Combating Wildlife Crime
10 March 2013
What is a transnational organized crime?
United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime
 A structured group of three or more persons
 In order to obtain financial or material benefit
 These crimes are planned/committed in more
than one country
 Acting together with the aim of committing one
or more serious crime (max. deprivation of 4
Thank you!
Jorge Eduardo Rios
UNODC Anti-Wildlife and Forest Crime Programme
[email protected]
Trafficking in elephant ivory
• January 2013: Hong Kong
Customs seized 779 tusks
(1,000 kg, worth $1.5m),
smuggled by sea from
Kenya via Malaysia.
• September 2011: Malaysia
Customs seized 695 tusks
originated in Tanzania and
directed to China.
Trafficking in rhino horns
• November 2011.
Hong Kong
Customs seized 33
horns from South
Africa, directed to
China or Vietnam
What drives this trade?
• High demand (ornament, traditional medicines, status)
wealthy markets in Asia, Europe, USA, Middle East
• No stigma associated to consumption
• Low risk of detection and conviction, low penalties
• High revenues for the traders:
• Poverty and lack of alternative livelihoods drives
poaching in countries of origin
Who are the smugglers?
Various nationalities involved
Traders with specialized knowledge
Large use of middlemen/facilitators
Poachers are often occasional actors
Underground role of retailers
Complicit public officials
How is the smuggling conducted?
Trans-boundary in nature
Not one mafia, but many networks
Highly dynamic and competitive
Sophisticated concealment and disguise techniques
Increasing role of internet
High level corruption (white-collar crime)
Benefits of considering wildlife crime a
“serious” crime?
• Higher level of penalties acting as deterrent (wildlife crime is a
low risk/high profit-crime)
• Higher level of convictions
• Increased sophistication of investigative techniques (electronic
surveillance e.g. telephone tapping)
• Increased level of international cooperation (both law
enforcement and judiciary)
• Illegal Wildlife Trade is a transnational organized crime
• Wildlife Crime has to be considered as a serious crime
• Adequate legislation, highly trained judiciary and
prosecution are required
• Front line officers need support
• transnational organized crime requires a coordinated
transnational response--International Consortium on
Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC)