Richardson Center Contributes Financial Enforcement Expertise to Freeland Foundation’s Anti-Poaching Training Course

The Freeland Foundation is a world renowned NGO that builds model training programs to combat wildlife exploitation.  With State Department funding from the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, Freeland assembled a 3-week training anti-poaching pilot course under its flagship program known as DETECT (Detection of Environmental Crime).

freeland-classroom-1The pilot course covered all the major dimensions of anti-poaching enforcement– except financial investigation that facilitates the laundering of poaching proceeds, and both civil and criminal asset forfeiture remedies.   Fortunately, the Richardson Center learned about the DETECT program at a point when Freeland realized it needed to address the economic motivations that drive this newest variant of transnational organized crime.  When Freeland’s management learned about the Richardson Center’s financial, money laundering, and asset forfeiture training modules, and the specialized expertise of our instructors, they quickly extended an invitation for the Center to participate in its September training event at the site of the Kenya School of Monetary Studies in Nairobi.

Freeland staff integrated the Center modules into their comprehensive course, scheduling presentations on money laundering, asset forfeiture, and financial investigation for delivery on September 10 and 12 at the site of Freeland’s Kenya DETECT training at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies.  The Richardson Center contributed two instructors with extensive Department of Justice enforcement experience:  Michael Messier, retired DEA official in charge of the Mexico liaison office and former manager of Bank of America’s Foreign Operations, and Stefan Cassella, former Deputy Chief of the Justice Department’s Asset Forfeiture/Money Laundering Section and most important, author of federal asset forfeiture reform legislation.

freeland-classroomThe Freeland-Richardson Center program was delivered to an audience of 18 wildlife protection officers, police, and prosecutors from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Republic of Congo, and Gabon.  To bolster the classroom impact of the two modules, instructors Messier and Cassella created a case study in part based on provisions of the Kenya Forfeiture Law, to prompt participants to apply the lessons imparting new investigative and prosecutive techniques.   According to Freeland’s in depth course evaluation, the modules and case study were very well received and the Richardson Center instructors received excellent participant ratings.  Among the positive comments received was this one on the Money Laundering module:  “The instructor [Cassella] was great at explaining and students acquired the necessary skills”.  The Financial Investigation module by Messier received equally high praise: “Very important and sometimes very complicated [subject].  We need more time on this topic.”  Participants also volunteered the following overall responses to the Richardson Center instructional contribution:

  • I learned that no crime, especially wildlife crime/animal poaching, takes place without a money element. 
  • One major thing l learned was liaising with institutions like the Financial Reporting Center here in Kenya, to obtain details of individuals suspected of being involved in money laundering activities.
  • I personally gained a lot and what really surprised me is how information is everywhere, just that most of the time we don’t utilize it 
  • My wish is to have a future training…for one week entirely focusing on the subject of where to find information.
  • From the outset, investigations should be geared towards unearthing and zeroing in on evidence of money involvement/laundering.
  • It is not enough to take criminals to jail without disabling them financially.

At the conclusion of the training session, the Richardson Center instructors invited the participants to remain in touch when they returned to the field and began to build cases using the new techniques. Resources permitting, the Richardson Center will be looking for more opportunities to present its model training approaches to additional audiences of African enforcement personnel.