Interpol (Wildlife Crime Subgroup) Conference, Auckland; speech by Commissioner Rob Robinson

Interpol (Wildlife Crime Subgroup) Conference, Auckland; speech by Commissioner Rob Robinson

Auckland City

Mihi

He h̦nore, he kor̦ria ki te Atua РHonour and glory to our creator

He maungärongo ki runga i te mata o te whenua – The desire for peace and goodwill over our land

He whakaaro pai ki ngä tangata katoa – Abiding goodwill and friendship amongst all peoples

Tihei Mauriora!

E ngä mana, e ngä reo, e rau rangatira mä

Tënä koutou, tënä koutou, tënä tätou katoa

Acknowledgements

Ministers of Conservation and Customs;

Ray LaLonde from Environment Canada (conference chair);

Delegates.

Welcome

The Maori greeting I just gave refers to the desire for peace and abiding goodwill and friendship among all people. And it welcomes chiefs and leaders assembled here.

I’d like to add my personal greetings to that.

Most of you have travelled a very long way to be here this morning.

We are privileged to have you join us for the first Interpol conference of any type to be held in New Zealand.

The theme of this conference is the increasing link between wildlife smuggling and trans-national organised crime in Oceania.

These days, there’s no difference between wildlife crime and the illegal narcotics trade. The only thing that changes for organised criminal enterprises is the commodity.

The rewards are substantial. I note Interpol estimates the global illegal trade in wildlife within the purview of CITES is somewhere between US$6 billion and US$7 billion annually.

It runs a close second or third behind drugs and firearms. And despite our relative geographic isolation, Oceania is not immune.

I understand Peter Younger’s presentation later this morning will deal in detail with wildlife smuggling trends in Oceania and its global links.

Oceania is both a transit point and a laundering zone. Geographic isolation, limited resources and conflicting enforcement priorities mean that the illegal trade in wildlife can flourish to the detriment of smaller Pacific nations.

I welcome representatives from some of these jurisdictions, especially Assistant Commissioner Moses Driver from Fiji.

While New Zealand and Australia have greater enforcement capability, the illegal trade in wildlife affects us too.

Of particular concern are issues surrounding biosecurity and the release of disease. And of course none of us want to see trans-national organised crime groups gaining any more of a foothold – in our region or globally.

So how do we combat this growing problem?

I recently spent some time in Europe meeting with heads of around 20 law enforcement jurisdictions. The common theme I heard from everyone is the need for close international cooperation, and this applies just as much to wildlife as it does to other forms of trans-national organised crime.

We are all inter-dependent. We are only as good as the weakest of us all – we must simply work together to ensure we all succeed and no-one fails. Sharing intelligence is a vital part of that, as it allows the full picture to develop.

While in Europe, I visited Greece to talk about security for the 20004 Olympics. Earlier this year, the Helenic Police had a big win that illustrates the value of cooperation.

Through a coordinated effort with other police services including the UK, they brought to justice the principals of the November 17 terrorist group, who in 2000 assassinated the UK defence attaché Brigadier Stephen Saunders in Athens.

While November 17 is a domestic Greek group, they have been active for nearly 30 years. Since 1975 they’ve killed 23 people, including five US officials.

They posed a real threat to the 2004 Olympics. But thanks to a coordinated law enforcement effort, Greece is now a safer place.

Our athletes will be competing there, so it’s a success for New Zealand as well.

The temptation is strong for us here in New Zealand, and in the wider Oceania region, to believe our geographic isolation will keep us safe. That’s a real danger. We cannot afford any complacency and must avoid slipping into a comfort zone.

We can be a contributor to international insecurity and border-less organised crime if we don’t keep our eye on the ball. Wildlife smuggling is increasingly a part of that.

The Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Ian Blair, summed up what I’ve been talking about in a recent keynote address to an International Policing Comparisons Conference. He said:

"In top end crime, terrorism and security, and organised crime, there is much to be learned from each other.

"As the world becomes essentially a smaller place, the tentacles of serious and organised crime spread from one country to another and what I would call asymmetric organised crime begins to develop, with funding and control in one country, with operatives from another country, working in a third."

As Sir Ian suggests, sharing ideas and experience is vital if we are to tackle this head-on.

I’m pleased to say my experience is that there is an absolute commitment from us to work together even when we don’t have the full set of national assistance arrangements in place.

This conference is an important contributor to that process. Not only will you gain some valuable information and perspectives, but you will also get to know people from other countries.

In this age of transnational crime and its subset, terrorism, relationships and networks between police leaders are critical.

As well as the items on the conference agenda, I urge you all to think about the contribution you can make to national and regional security through relationship-building on an individual and agency level.

I note ICPO Secretary-General Ray Kendall set out the Working Group’s objective in simple terms and it’s appropriate to restate them at the start of this meeting:

• Improve the exchange of information (including criminal intelligence) on persons and companies involved in the illegal trade in wild flora and fauna.

• Support investigations into illegal activities related to wildlife crime by improving national, regional and international law enforcement.

• Exchange information on methods and trends in this illegal trade with the purpose of developing a more proactive approach.

• Develop training and information documents needed for the investigators.

Finally on behalf of New Zealand Police and Interpol, I’d like to officially declare this conference open and wish you every success for the next few days.

Best wishes also for the work you do back in your own jurisdictions in detecting and apprehending the people involved in this cruel and dangerous trade. It is vital work, and your contribution to international security and the targeting of organised criminal enterprises is greatly valued.

Enjoy your time together, learn from each other and travel home safely to your loved ones.

No reira

E aku rangitira ma (to respected leaders)

E hoa ma (friends all)

Tënä koutou, tënä koutou, tënä tätou katoa