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U.S.-South Africa task force to fight wildlife trafficking and related money laundering

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Illegal ivory trinkets, tusks and creations on display in New York City's Central Park in 2017. The Treasury Department on Wednesday announced a new joint task force with South Africa to combat wildlife trafficking. File photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Illegal ivory trinkets, tusks and creations on display in New York City's Central Park in 2017. The Treasury Department on Wednesday announced a new joint task force with South Africa to combat wildlife trafficking. File photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 25 (UPI) -- The U.S. Treasury Department and South Africa's National Treasury will form the new United States-South Africa Task Force to combat illicit finance linked to the illegal wildlife trade.

The Treasury Department said in a statement that the task force will focus on sharing financial red flags in wildlife trafficking cases, ramping up information sharing between financial intelligence units to support law enforcement in South Africa and working to improve controls to combat money laundering related to drug and wildlife trafficking.

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"The task force is an opportunity to harness our shared interests to strengthen ties and address this global threat. Given the importance of the U.S. dollar and financial system to international trade and finance, the illegal wildlife trade presents a unique money laundering threat with respect to proceeds transiting the U.S. financial system," the agency said.

Treasury said wildlife trafficking and other nature crimes will continue to be a priority for the U.S. government because they are linked to other priorities related to corruption, climate change, public health and fighting transnational criminal organizations.

RELATED Texas biologist gets 6 months in prison for wildlife trafficking

The agency highlighted its move to designate Teo Boon Ching, who was linked to transporting rhino horns from Africa in the past 20 years.

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In October, the U.S. Justice Department charged Ching with participating in a conspiracy to traffic more than $725,000 worth of rhinoceros horns.

"To help save wildlife populations from further poaching and disrupt the associated illicit trade, we must 'follow the money' in the same way we do with other serious crimes," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in remarks from South Africa's Dinokeng Game Reserve. "This includes identifying and seizing the proceeds generated from the illegal wildlife trade and impeding the money laundering and cross-border transactions of the transnational criminal organizations often involved in-and who benefit from corruption."

RELATED Malaysia seizes $18 million worth of elephant tusks, pangolin scales

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