Published 25 August 2022

Anti-money laundering linked to wildlife trafficking becomes part of Chinese law enforcement training for the first time

TRAFFIC teamed up with China Customs to train Law Enforcement officials in identifying money-laundering linked to wildlife trade criminal networks at an annual law enforcement training held earlier this month.

The illegal wildlife trade is a major transnational organised crime that generates between US$7 billion and US$23 billion globally each year and cannot occur without financial crime to launder the proceeds. Anti-money laundering (AML) strategies can play a critical role by increasing the risks for wildlife trafficking criminals and identifying their networks.

Previously, training mainly focused on interrupting the physical transit and logistics of illegal wildlife crime. Now, alongside international cooperation, inclusion of AML to the training will enhance China customs’ ability to break the illicit financial flows that these international crime networks rely on.” 

Ling XU, Director of TRAFFIC China Office

In recent years, TRAFFIC has reported on how Chinese banks have the potential to be integral in combating illicit proceeds of wildlife trafficking.  To further strengthen China Customscapacity to interrupt the illicit financial flow from illegal wildlife trade, TRAFFIC supported the Anti-Smuggling Bureau of the General Administration of Customs of China to carry out an annual law enforcement training workshop from 8 to 9 August.

TRAFFIC invited Professor Xin WANG from Peking University Law School to present on international AML policy, China AML legislation, and the correlation between illegal wildlife trade and money laundering. He discussed how to overcome the issues encountered by customs in applying AML laws and regulations in practical work.

“Trained officials have better understanding of the importance to combat illegal wildlife trade and interrupt the financial flow through AML approaches that work towards dismantling organised wildlife smuggling syndicates efficiently, said Beijing WANG, Division Director of International Cooperation, Anti-Smuggling Bureau of the General Administration of Customs.

She continued, As a member of the Inter-ministerial Joint Meeting on Anti-money Laundering in China, China Customs hopes to use widely the AML approaches in the anti-smuggling investigations.

Ling XU took a deeper dive into the typical characteristics and payment methods of the illegal supply chain, the red flags of wildlife crime in transportation and finance, exampled cases of wildlife and timber crime, and international cooperation mechanisms.

Now law enforcement should take the opportunity to broaden their investigative scope to financial crime and help international efforts to bring down these networks.”

Beijing WANG, Division Director of International Cooperation, Anti-Smuggling Bureau of the General Administration of CustomsThis is not the only avenue for organisations to interrupt the flow of illicit proceeds associated with the illegal wildlife trade in China. Last month, TRAFFIC and ACAMS jointly launched as an awareness-raising effort a Simplified Chinese (SCH) version of a free-of-charge certificate for AML investigators, ‘Ending Illegal Wildlife Trade: A Comprehensive Overview’.

International cooperation was discussed on the first-day training to which authorities from Southeast Asia countries were also invited. The Royal Malaysian Customs Department highlighted the importance of global intelligence sharing and shared the experience and lessons of law enforcement operation steps. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) detailed the implementation skills of controlled delivery. Singapore National Parks Bureau shared the successful cases of applying controlled delivery in combating international smuggling of endangered wildlife and their products in collaboration with China Customs and Singapore Customs; this was also awarded the 6th Asia Environmental Enforcement Awards in 2021.

Kanitha Krishnasamy, Director of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia Office, shared her expertise at the event: “The success of disintegrating international wildlife smuggling activities relies heavily on effective international law enforcement cooperation. China Customs has actively carried out inter-regional law enforcement cooperation, taking the lead in combating regional and global wildlife crime, which poses threats to biodiversity and biosecurity. TRAFFIC Southeast Asia has been working closely with ASEAN Customs in fighting against wildlife smuggling and looks forward to collaborating with China government in the future.

China Customs has actively cracked down on the smuggling of endangered species and their products in recent years and has carried out international cooperation with customs of Southeast Asian and African countries. For example, in later 2020, thanks to the efforts of China, Thailand and Vietnam Customs, the joint operation led to the arrest of 4 members of criminal gangs and the seizure of 29 tonnes of illegally smuggled rosewood (Dalbergia spp.).


More than 220 participants from the General Administration of Customs and 18 local Customs Branches from Xinjiang, Heilongjiang, Gansu, Shandong, Shanghai, Zhejiang, Inner Mongolia, Shaanxi, Guangxi, Guangdong, Yunnan and Sichuan joined in the two-day training.



This event was kindly supported by Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI) and the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL),the U.S. Department of State.