Wildlife crime is the 4th largest transnational crime in the world. The organised nature of the criminal networks trafficking wildlife and forest products across continents therefore requires a co-ordinated approach to investigate and prosecute high-level criminals who are exploiting Malawi’s natural resources, inciting corruption, and threatening national security.
The Inter-Agency Committee for Combating Wildlife Crime (IACCWC) was established in 2014 to advise on and coordinate efforts to combat wildlife and forest crime in Malawi. It draws on the expertise and mandates of the thirteen government agencies* represented on the Committee, members of whom will gather today in Liwonde National Park to reflect on successes to date, and to renew their commitments towards ensuring that the perpetrators of these serious organised crimes are brought to justice.
The Committee’s inception was driven as a result of Government concerns on the impact of the illegal wildlife trade, and this concern was further validated in 2016 when Malawi was internationally identified as southern Africa’s principle transit hub for wildlife traffickers .
The Committee has since supported a range of Government-led initiatives including strengthened investigative and prosecution capacity, and new legislation. As a result of this approach, there has been a significant step- change in interception rates and court outcomes.
Illegal wildlife trade is now widely viewed as a serious crime in Malawi, carrying a sentence of up to 30 years in prison with no option of a fine. Between 2011 and 2015, no custodial sentences were given to wildlife criminals. In comparison, 93% of court cases resulted in custodial convictions in 2018, with maximum sentences passed of 18 years and averaging 4.5 years overall.
The IACCWC is currently regarded as the best example of its kind in the SADC region, further enhancing Malawi’s international reputation as a progressive leader in the global fight against illegal wildlife trade.
Despite this progress, challenges lie ahead as organised criminals continue to target Malawi’s wildlife and forests for their own financial gain. Additionally, Malawi remains a transit route for the transport of illegal wildlife products from Africa to destinations in Asia. The IACCWC remains committed to its mandate to maintain the significant progress made through close inter-agency co-operation and urges both the public and the supporting local and international institutions to continue to support the Government’s resolute commitment to combat illegal wildlife trade.
*IACCWC member agencies: Financial Intelligence Authority, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Ministry of Justice, National Intelligence Bureau, Anti-Corruption Bureau, Malawi Police Service, Department of Immigration, Malawi Defence Force, Malawi Revenue Authority, Department of Forestry, The Judiciary, Environmental Affairs Department, Department of National Parks and Wildlife.