Dealers in Endangered Animals and Trees Lose $34 million USD to Thai AMLO
Freeland congratulates the investigative work of Thailand’s Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) after it announced seizures of over 1 billion Thai baht ($36.5 million USD) from a wildlife trafficking syndicate yesterday, marking the first ever multi-million dollar seizure from wildlife criminals in Asia.
The accused syndicate is linked to the trafficking of high value endangered species such as tigers, pangolins, and rosewood trees across Southeast Asia over the last decade.
Yesterday’s major asset seizure follows the April 19 Royal Thai Police arrest of Kampanart Chaimat, who was caught with nearly 5 million Thai Baht ($154,000 USD) in cash, which he admitted was to help sponsor the illegal cutting and smuggling of endangered rosewood trees from several of Thailand’s eastern national parks.
Kampanart Chaimat was discovered to be related to, and in business with, his sister, Daoreung Chaimat, who was arrested in 2010 for trafficking tigers from Malaysia and Thailand to Vietnam via Laos. In 2010, the Chaiyaphum Province-based Chaimats were the focus of a Royal Thai Police/ Freeland investigation and National Geographic Television exposé. After working with Thai Police to help arrest Daoreung Chaimat for laundering tigers and pangolins through her “Star Tiger Zoo” that same year, Freeland observed that the wheels of justice at the provincial level were moving slowly against Daoreung. When Daoreung was not prosecuted, Freeland and the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN) took information about her to AMLO in 2011, which agreed to look into the case. The Nakhon Ratchasima Police investigation last month that netted Kampanart Chaimat helped AMLO connect the criminal dots between the family members resulting in the recent asset seizure.
Pol. Capt. Suwanee Sawangphol, the AMLO Deputy Secretary General said, “This case is a great result and the amount of money involved highlights the seriousness of wildlife trafficking in Thailand.” She added, “The information Freeland provided to AMLO in 2011 assisted us with this investigation and helped to prove the linkages between these traffickers.”
After exposing the Chaimat family in 2010, Freeland worked with Thailand’s Nature Crime Police to expose the Southeast Asia-based Xaysavang Network in 2013 for its major role in poaching rhinos in Africa, as well as other endangered species from Africa and Asia. A $1 million reward has been offered by the U.S. Government for information leading to the dismantlement of the Xaysavang Network.
Steven Galster, the Executive Director of Freeland said, “Given the highly organized nature of both syndicates, the similar nature of their business, including the animals, trees and countries involved, Freeland hopes that investigators will join hands across countries and agencies to build on this latest case and work towards dismantling the transnational links of these criminals.” Galster added, “Thailand’s AMLO and Royal Thai Police should be congratulated by conservationists and law enforcement authorities across Asia and Africa for seriously weakening one of the world’s most dangerous and destructive wildlife trafficking networks, which Freeland believes has been responsible for the poaching of tigers, elephants, pangolins, other wild animals and large swaths of forest in many countries.”
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Freeland is a frontline counter-trafficking organization working for a world that is free of wildlife trafficking and human slavery. Our team of law enforcement, development and communications specialists work alongside partners in Asia, Africa and the Americas to build capacity, raise awareness, and promote good governance to protect critical ecosystems and vulnerable people. For more info, visit www.freeland.org also; follow Freeland on twitter @FREELANDpeople or facebook.com/freelandfoundation