28. June 2021

Supporting Malawi in tackling illegal wildlife trade through financial investigation training

Illegal wildlife trade financial investigations course in Malawi

Malawi has made impressive progress in tackling the illegal wildlife trade (IWT). It has strong legal instruments to deter wildlife traffickers and highly dedicated law enforcement officers to enforce them. What is less developed is the financial crime aspect of wildlife trafficking investigations. 

Financial investigation in IWT cases was therefore the focus of a recent three-day training course for members of three of Malawi’s law enforcement agencies mandated to combat wildlife crime. The course was developed and delivered in-person and remotely by the Basel Institute’s Green Corruption programme in collaboration with colleagues from the International Centre for Asset Recovery.

Uncovering financial evidence with diverse techniques

The course covered diverse financial investigation techniques through a mix of presentations and practical exercises, focusing on uncovering financial intelligence and evidence. It included:

  • obtaining intelligence and evidence from freight consignments, the Customs database Asycuda, and PISCES border control systems;
  • practical exercises conducting searches in premises and vehicles to identify financially relevant documents and items that could lead to further intelligence, as well as dealing with different scenarios in which assets were frozen through a local court process;
  • presentations and discussions of issues around money laundering, handling suspicious cash, the use of informants and undercover police agents to identify financial intelligence, obtaining data from communication devices, and exploring mobile phone apps that could assist with intelligence and evidence gathering;
  • introductions to non-conviction based forfeiture of assets, including establishing and analysing illicit benefits, and leveraging the multi-agency informal network for asset recovery in Southern Africa (ARINSA).

Fostering inter-agency collaboration and sharing of information

The 21 participants, from the Malawi Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), Malawi Police Service (MPS) and Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA), worked together on the practical exercises in small groups. This helped to foster the kind of collaboration that is essential for coordinated inter-agency investigations into wildlife trafficking cases.

Participants also shared their own experiences and knowledge, including presentations by customs agents and members of the FIA.

Feedback and acknowledgements

Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with the Head of Malawi Police Service’s Central Intelligence Unit praising it for triggering insights into how Malawi can move forward in the fight against wildlife trafficking.

There is a clear demand for more in-depth training, given the complexity of many of the topics.

Many of the training materials were developed under a PMI Impact-supported programme implemented by the Basel Institute’s Green Corruption team. The training itself was supported by the UK FCDO-funded Tackling Serious and Organised Corruption (TSOC) programme in Malawi.