It never ceases to amaze me, the lengths that people will go to and the atrocities they will commit and tolerate in order to make money. In recent training sessions I have been updating people on wildlife trafficking (you know how I bang on about making people care about money laundering by telling them about the crimes being committed), and usually I focus on the more obvious victims – the elephants, the rhinos, the big game hunting “trophies”. But it seems that people will take the life of any animal if they can make money from it.
The narwhal is an almost mythical creature: it is a whale with a single very long spiral “tusk” (actually a canine tooth) that lives in Arctic waters. Melville wrote quite a bit about them in “Moby Dick” while Verne suggested it could be the giant sea beast in “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea”, and in some legends the narwhal is believed to be related to the unicorn. And it is this very tusk, horn, tooth thing that attracts the attention of poachers. A few weeks ago, Gregory Logan, who retired from the Canadian Mounties in 2003 so should really be on the side of good, was extradited to the US to stand trial for laundering US$2 million made from smuggling narwhal ivory from Canada to the US. Narwhal tusks grow up to ten feet long, and sell for as much as $30,000 in Canada, where the trade is legal. But in the US, all but the most essential – generally scientific – trade in narwhal ivory is prohibited, and so Logan (who has already pleaded guilty to the smuggling) saw his opportunity and sold more than 250 tusks to American collectors over a decade. Canada fined him C$600,000 for the smuggling – but American prosecutors hope to jail him for at least twenty years for the laundering. The narwhal has a tough enough time – many suffocate under the Arctic ice, or starve to death – without ex-policemen inflating the demand for narwhal tusks.
For the MLRO, this case has a couple of interesting (for which, read awkward) elements. First there are the jurisdictional differences – narwhal ivory trade is legal in Canada but (mostly) illegal in the US. Then there’s the due diligence difficulties: a 58-year old ex-policeman probably wouldn’t trigger any high risk alerts, but he turns out to be a smuggler and (suspected) money launderer.