Breaking! $11 Million Dollars Worth Of Assets Seized In Thailand During Latest Wildlife Trafficking Sting Involving ‘Kingpin’ Boonchai Bach
Yesterday afternoon, the Secretary General of Thailand’s Anti-Money Laundering Organization (AMLO) announced that his team identified and froze more than $11 million dollars worth of assets belonging to international wildlife trafficking ring, ‘Hydra.’ As previously reported by WAN, alleged wildlife crime kingpin, Boonchai Bach, has reportedly been operating Hydra out of northeast Thailand for more than a decade.
According to international nonprofit, Freeland Foundation, which provided critical background information on targets of the syndicate, between March 11th and March 14th, officers entered and seized property in Nakorn Panom and Chaiyaphum provinces.
“AMLO’s recent operation against Hydra, a major crime organization, is the most positive and impactful news we have heard for wildlife to date. Often, wildlife criminals continue operating with impurity in spite of law enforcement efforts, whether they get arrested or not,” Steve Galster, the Founder of Freeland, said in a statement. “What AMLO has done is completely different: they have grounded this syndicate’s operations by freezing and seizing their financial resources. That means they don’t have the time or money to order the killing of more wild animals. This approach needs to be copied and expanded to help wildlife populations recover.”
This month’s operation, followed more than a year of probes that started after the acquittal of Bach, who had been arrested by Thai police in January 2018 for rhino horn trafficking through Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport. Bach was subsequently acquitted in another case one year later by the criminal court in Samut Prakan province, Thailand.
By March 2019, AMLO opened a new case against Bach and his associates, collaborating with Freeland to assemble a picture of a cross border criminal network. Thailand has served as a major transit for illegal wildlife trade from multiple countries, including Malaysia, Indonesia, and Africa en route to China via Laos and Vietnam. Species trafficked include: tigers, lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and pangolins, among others.
Some registered zoos in Thailand have been revealed as a source of the illegal wildlife trade through Thailand, including, most recently, Mukda Tiger Park Zoo. Freeland was able to show how this trade is organized by Hydra members, including Bach. Assets targeted by AMLO in this operation are believed to have been derived from sales of these and other species sourced in Asian and African countries.
Thailand’s Anti-Monery Laundering Act of 1999 is a powerful tool and can be used against suspects and businesses that have earned mysterious wealth, and who appear to be laundering money through ‘predicate’ offense, which in Thailand includes environmental crimes and smuggling. Following a thorough AMLO investigation, the burden of proof is on the accused.
In the case of Hydra, suspects linked to the assets, which include endangered species, will have 90 days to explain how they accumulated what AMLO found, or forfeit everything to the state.
“Going forward, we will try to get governments to allocate a portion of assets seized from wildlife criminals to wildlife recovery funds,” concluded Galster. “We want to drain the fuel tanks of the traffickers and fuel the operations of wildlife protectors. Let’s make traffickers finance wildlife conservation.”
You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg