Published 10 Tháng sáu 2024


Protecting nature and livelihoods in Indian Ocean by tackling money laundering buried within illegal wildlife trade

The stunningly biodiverse and beautiful islands of the West Indian Ocean face a growing problem of illegal wildlife trade, and hidden within it, money-laundering and corruption. 

Madagascar is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, leading to pressure to illegally export its precious resources, including timber, tortoises, lemurs and medicinal plants. 

Other West Indian Ocean countries, given their dispersed geography and location, face major threats from illegal trade of their natural resources, coupled with illegal drug trade convergence using similar smuggling routes. 

Law enforcement teams from the IOC member states gathered for an anti-money laundering workshop in Mauritius.

Worldwide, illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be worth between $7bn and $23bn per year. With inherent links between wildlife crime and financial corruption, protecting nature and the local livelihoods it supports, must be viewed from a financial perspective. 

Last week in Mauritius, members of law enforcement teams from all Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) member states - Comoros, France (Réunion), Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles - met to agree action and collaboration to crack down on money-laundering by wildlife traffickers.  

Jointly organized by the IOC and TRAFFIC, under the Countering Corruption and Wildlife Trafficking project, funded by USAID and led by the World Wild Fund for Nature, the two-day workshop comprised more than 30 regional officers from gendarmerie, customs, police, environment authorities, prosecutors, and intelligence agencies.  

Examples of illegal wildlife trafficking in the Indian Ocean 

In 2019, Eddy Maminirina was arrested in Madagascar for his connection to illegal rosewood trade. It is alleged that 100 million Malagasy Ariary ($22,000) was laundered from the illegal export of rosewood, illustrating the importance of financial investigations in tackling IWT. 

Tortoises seized in Ankadilalana, Madagascar.

Recent cases illustrate the need for cooperation between IOC member states. For example, a significant incident involving the seizure in Comoros of 400 tortoises from Madagascar, highlights the transnational nature of wildlife trafficking and the critical need for collaborative efforts to address it.  

Money laundering and wildlife trafficking 

As with money earned from other crimes, wildlife traffickers want to hide the true sources of earnings coming from sales of endangered plants or animals. They will often spend – launder - this money, preferably in untraceable cash, on lucrative yet legitimate assets such as cars, jewellery or housing which are easily further traded and where controls are lax.  

 As anyone who watches detective films will know, you catch criminals by gathering information on their activities."

Hanitra Ralivololona, TRAFFIC Legal Officer“To stop our precious plants and animals being pushed to extinction through illegal trade, we are bringing together all those who work in law enforcement in our region, so we can piece together the jigsaw revealing massive-scale money-laundering happening behind wildlife trafficking in our region.”  

She added: “There needs to be more collaboration between Indian Ocean member countries to identify illicit assets and dismantle trafficking networks. Tackling this transnational organized crime requires a networked approach.” 

Poached lemurs.

Despite the enormous financial implications, there have been very few financial investigations into the illicit financial flows associated with IWT in the Indian Ocean countries – though this is now expected to change as these countries see this as a priority and have strengthened their anti-money laundering capacity.  

Outcomes from the workshop: 

  • Follow the Money: By tracking financial flows, authorities can identify and arrest not only the low-level operatives but also the financiers and masterminds behind the trade. 

  • Concrete Actions: Following the roundtable, we expect to see concrete actions such as parallel financial investigations for any illegal wildlife trade offenses and the creation of an information exchange network between countries. 

  • WhatsApp Group: A WhatsApp group has been created to facilitate immediate communication and information exchange. This platform will help share information on trafficking routes and laundering methods. 

  • Capacity Building: Capacity building is necessary for law enforcement agencies in these countries to effectively identify protected species, conduct proactive financial investigations, and enhance regional cooperation. 

  • Protocol of Cooperation: Establishing a memorandum of understanding for joint investigations and regional cooperation will be critical in tackling this issue effectively. 

The participants of the two-day anti-money laundering workshop comprised members of law enforcement teams from all Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) member states.

About IOC (Indian Ocean Commission)

Created in 1982, the IOC is an intergovernmental organization consisting of five Member States: The Union of the Comoros, France by way of Reunion Island, Madagascar, Mauritius and the Seychelles. The IOC is the only regional organization in Africa to represent a group of islands. It defends the interests of its Member States in Africa and internationally. Thanks to over three decades of experience, with the support of a dozen international partners, the IOC has become a key sustainable development player in Africa with recognized expertise in many different areas, particularly in marine and coastal resource management. The IOC-Biodiversity project, funded by the European Union, aims at preserving and valorizing the biodiversity of Indian Ocean Islands and of Kenya and Tanzania. Visit: Follow: f @commissionoi / t @commission_io For more information: (+230) 4026100 / 


The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is responsible for the majority of overseas development assistance from the United States Government and works to end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies while advancing security and prosperity for America and the world.


WWF is an independent conservation organization, with over 30 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. Visit for the latest news and media resources and follow us on Twitter @WWF_media.