There has been startling growth in the online illegal wildlife trade (IWT), and broad recognition of the need to apply financial and anti-money-laundering tools to the fight against environmental crime. Much illicit trade carried out over the internet requires some form of electronic payment. This paper explores how various payment methods are used in the online IWT, and the challenges and opportunities these present to law enforcement. Some inroads have been made into combating the online counterfeit trade by suppressing activities of ‘rogue’ digital payment providers that facilitate illicit trade. Opportunities to target the online IWT by monitoring digital payment transactions will emerge only if regulatory systems and technology keep pace with levels of innovation used by illegal wildlife traders to avoid detection.

Cut the Purse Strings - Targeting the online illegal wildlife trade through digital payment systems

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Rupert Horsley

Rupert is a Senior Analyst at the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime. Before joining the Global Initiative he was a freelance researcher broadly covering political risk in the MENA region. He also contributed to a number of large strategic communications projects investigating public opinion among difficult to access communities in the Middle East. Previously he worked as a security analyst for the BSOC, a private unit embedded with the Iraqi Army’s Basra Operations Command; and as an analyst for GPW, a boutique corporate investigations firm. He holds a BA in Arabic from SOAS, University of London, and an MPhil in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Cambridge.

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