Washington, D.C. May 8, 2018. Today, the landmark Wildlife Conservation & Anti-Trafficking Act of 2018 was introduced. This groundbreaking bi-partisan legislation is aimed at making it easier to catch and prosecute poachers, traffickers, and the those involved in the global trade in illegal wildlife and seafood products. It was introduced by Rep. Don Young (R- Alaska), Chairman Emeritus of the Natural Resources Committee and Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), a senior democratic member of that Committee.
A key feature of this bipartisan bill is to incentivize whistleblowers to report wildlife crime using qui tam laws. Similar laws have revolutionized the detection and prosecution of government contract fraud, tax fraud and securities fraud. It will also provide dedicated funding for wildlife conservation programs at no expense to American taxpayers.
Stephen M. Kohn*, an internationally recognized expert in whistleblower reward laws issued the following statement:
“The Wildlife Conservation & Anti-Trafficking Act of 2018, is the most significant breakthrough in the protection of endangered species in a generation. It closes loopholes that have undermined the prosecution of illegal wildlife traffickers and empowers citizens and NGO’s to play a leading role in the struggle to end the current extinction crisis.
“This law empowers citizens throughout the world to confidentially and anonymously report wildlife crimes and obtain significant monetary rewards. It utilizes the format of the highly successful whistleblower reward laws that were used to crack down on illegal Swiss bank accounts. It makes whistleblower rewards available to anyone, worldwide, who comes forward with knowledge of illegal wildlife trafficking and anonymously and confidentially reports violations.”
In addition to providing whistleblower protection, the law makes wildlife trafficking a predicate offense under federal racketeering and anti-organized crime statutes (RICO and Travel Acts) and mandates that all fines and sanctions collected be placed in special fund for wildlife conservation.
Earlier today, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report that documented weaknesses in the current system and made important recommendations for reforms. Read the GAO report: Combatting Wildlife Trafficking: Opportunities Exist to Improve the Use of Financial Rewards.
The National Whistleblower Center, the leading whistleblower advocacy group in the U.S., has endorsed the proposed law and issued an urgent call to action for Congress to get this legislation passed immediately.
*Stephen M. Kohn, a partner in the whistleblower rights law firm of Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto, is an internationally recognized expert in whistleblower law and author of the award-winning Environmental Law Review article, “Monetary Rewards for Wildlife Whistleblowers: A Game-Changer in Wildlife Trafficking Detection and Deterrence.” In his role as executive director of the National Whistleblower Center, Mr. Kohn oversaw the implementation of the Global Wildlife Whistleblower Program. This program was named a Grand Prize Winner in the 2016 Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge , an initiative of USAID in partnership with the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian Institution, and TRAFFIC. Mr. Kohn successfully represented the UBS bank whistleblower Bradley Birkenfeld, who won the largest whistleblower reward ever to an individual -- $104 million. Mr. Kohn can be contacted at 202-342-6980 or via email: https://www.kkc.com/contact-us.