© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A vulture sits on a tree as the sun rises at the iconic Kruger National Park, in Skukuza, Mpumalanga Province, South Africa, February 10, 2022. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
By Andrea Shalal
HAMMANSKRAAL, South Africa (Reuters) – The U.S. Treasury Department and South Africa’s National Treasury on Wednesday agreed to form a task force to combat illicit finance linked to the illegal wildlife trade, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said.
Speaking at the Dinokeng Game Reserve outside Pretoria, Yellen told South African officials that the new task force aims to boost information sharing between the two country’s financial intelligence units and to strengthen controls to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.
The move comes amid South African media reports that the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which sets standards on combating money laundering and wildlife trafficking, could add South Africa to its grey list when it meets in February 2023.
Grey-listed countries are subject to greater monitoring by the FATF on concern they are at higher risk for money laundering and terrorist financing.
Yellen said the U.S. Treasury already worked to provide information on wildlife trafficking to law enforcement partners, and had also worked alongside South Africa with FATF to identify indicators associated with money laundering and wildlife trafficking.
“Through closer collaboration to target illicit proceeds linked to wildlife trafficking, as well as overlapping criminal activity like corruption, fraud, and drug trafficking, we are taking a step in the right direction today,” Yellen said after touring the game preserve, which has suffered from poaching of wild animals, including rhinoceros.
“To make an impact against this harmful crime and the illicit financing that accompanies it, we must use this as an opportunity to build a consistent and durable approach,” Yellen said.