FinCEN Analysis Reveals Upward Trend of SARs Related to Wildlife Trafficking

Office of Strategic Communications,
Immediate Release

WASHINGTON—The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) today released a Financial Threat Analysis on wildlife trafficking threat patterns and trend information identified in Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) data.  The report aims to further inform efforts to combat wildlife trafficking and the associated movement of illicit proceeds, which are estimated to be between $7 and $23 billion per year and account for a quarter of all wildlife trade.

Wildlife trafficking is a major transnational organized crime that fuels corruption, threatens biodiversity, damages fragile ecosystems, and can have a significant negative impact on public health and the economy.  It involves the illicit trade of protected animals, animal parts, and derivatives thereof, including procurement, transport, and distribution, in violation of international or domestic law, and money laundering related to this activity.  To move, hide, and launder their proceeds, wildlife traffickers exploit weaknesses in financial and non-financial sectors, enabling further wildlife crimes and damaging financial integrity.

“Today’s report demonstrates the critical role that financial institutions play in identifying wildlife trafficking and protecting the U.S. financial system from associated illicit finance through compliance with their BSA obligations,” said FinCEN Acting Director Himamauli Das. 

FinCEN’s analysis of wildlife trafficking-related Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) indicates that wildlife trafficking is affecting the U.S. financial sector.  Overall, wildlife trafficking-related SARs filed between January 2018 and October 2021 trended significantly up and SARs filed in 2021 are on track to meet or exceed the amount of SARs filed in 2020 based on current trends.

FinCEN is calling attention to this threat because of:  (1) its strong association with corruption and transnational criminal organizations, two of FinCEN’s national anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism priorities published in June 2021; (2) a need to enhance reporting and analysis of related illicit financial flows; and, (3) wildlife trafficking’s contribution to biodiversity loss, damage to fragile ecosystems, and the increased likelihood of spreading of zoonotic diseases. 

This report is issued pursuant to Section 6206 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020, which requires FinCEN to periodically publish threat pattern and trend information derived from SARs,   and is another example of FinCEN’s increasing focus in this area.  In November, FinCEN held a FinCEN Exchange session on environmental crimes and issued a Notice to call attention to an upward trend in environmental crimes and associated illicit financial activity.