Published 10 October 2018

Major financial institutions have united behind The Duke of Cambridge’s mission to disrupt the illegal trade in wildlife products.

In an unprecedented move, global financial organisations will join together to sign the 'Mansion House Declaration' as part of United for Wildlife’s Financial Taskforce meeting on Wednesday 10th October, agreeing that they "will not knowingly facilitate or tolerate financial flows that are derived from IWT and associated corruption".

The declaration includes commitments to sharing resources and intelligence in a bid to disrupt the illegal income generated by poached animal products such as elephant tusks, rhino horn and pangolin scales.

The illegal wildlife trade (IWT) is organised crime on a global scale, estimated to be worth up to $23 billion annually, and is linked to money laundering, corruption and extreme violence, as well as the trafficking of drugs and weapons.

The Financial Taskforce is being convened by His Royal Highness through his charity United for Wildlife, which is run by The Royal Foundation. The Taskforce will be chaired by Lord Hague of Richmond, and will initially comprise of representatives from 30 global banks and financial organisations such as Standard Chartered, HSBC, RBS and Bank of America, and agencies and regulatory bodies including TRAFFIC and RUSI.

Using existing frameworks for tackling global financial crime, alongside initiatives which some financial institutions are already utilising to tackle IWT, a bank-led experts group comprising of representatives from financial organisations, legal advisors and technical experts has created the Mansion House Declaration which outlines six commitments:

1. Increasing awareness of how the financial industry can combat IWT

2. Providing training to identify and investigate suspicious activity

3. Providing intelligence to regulatory bodies and law enforcement agencies

4. Reviewing intelligence alerts received through the Taskforce and taking appropriate actions

5. Considering additional actions such as policy amendments

6. Supporting and promoting the work of the Taskforce and external supporting mechanisms

The Declaration follows on from the success of United for Wildlife’s Transportation Taskforce, and the Buckingham Palace Declaration.

Since the launch of the Transportation Taskforce, more than 100 organisations, including shipping and airline companies, law enforcement, trade bodies and NGOs, have signed the Buckingham Palace Declaration, committing to combat IWT in the transport sector.

Taskforce members have delivered specific counter-IWT training to more than 25,000 front line staff, contributed to 5 seizures of wildlife products worth over $500,000, and assisted with more than 32 law enforcement investigations and the arrests of 8 wildlife traffickers.

The Mansion House Declaration will also be signed by Penny Mordaunt, Secretary of State for International Development, in recognition of the UK Government’s commitment to the issue, and the conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade, taking place in London from 11th – 12th October 2018. The Conference, at which The Duke of Cambridge will deliver the keynote speech, will focus on tackling IWT as a serious organised crime. The creation of the Financial Taskforce is a key step towards organisations from around the world helping to support this mission.

Chair of the Taskforce, Lord Hague of Richmond said: "The illegal wildlife trade has grown substantially in recent years, despite considerable international efforts, and poaching rates for many species are still increasing to feed the growing criminal demand.

"Traffickers are brazenly exploiting global financial systems to move the proceeds of their crimes, remaining under the radar of investigation and law enforcement. Financial institutions can, therefore, play a crucial role in disrupting such criminal activities and ending the illegal wildlife trade.

"It will take a truly global approach, with multiple organisations and sectors working together, to eradicate this barbaric trade and so I am delighted that the financial sector is now committing its much needed support to do so."

David Fein, Group General Counsel at Standard Chartered and Vice-Chair of the Taskforce said: "By following the money, financial institutions can help map the criminal networks and provide law enforcement with vital intelligence to support their investigations and prosecutions.

"We want to take the fight to the traffickers, by using the tools and experience the financial sector has learned from combatting other devastating crimes, such as human trafficking and terrorist financing."