National Whistleblower Day

Washington, D.C. September 1, 2016. Today, the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge announced the National Whistleblower Center (NWC) as a Grand Prize Winner. The Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge, an initiative of USAID in partnership with the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian Institution, and TRAFFIC, is finding new, innovative solutions to the most intractable issues in the fight against wildlife trafficking. Continue Reading National Whistleblower Center Selected as Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge Grand Prize Winner

Washington D.C., USA. January 21, 2016—The Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge program, an initiative of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in partnership with the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian Institution, and TRAFFIC, announced today that the National Whistleblower Center’s “Secured Internet Wildlife Crime Reporting System” is one of the Wildlife Crime Challenge prize winners.

Launched in 2014, the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge is finding new, innovative solutions to the most intractable issues in the fight against wildlife trafficking. The award today recognizes the critical role that whistleblowers can play in detecting wildlife crimes and holding criminal smugglers accountable. Continue Reading National Whistleblower Center Wins Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge Award

August 12 is World Elephant Day, a day “to bring attention to the urgent plight of Asian and African elephants.” Asian elephants are marked as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, while the African elephant is marked as vulnerable.

“African elephant populations have fallen from an estimated 12 million a century ago to around 350,000,” according to The Wildlife Trafficking Alliance (WTA). Although many Asian elephants do not have tusks, they are still vulnerable to poaching and trafficking because of their use in the tourism industry and demand for their skin, “used in traditional medicine and shaped into polished beads to make jewelry.” Though the poaching mortality rates of elephants in Africa seem to have decreased in the past few years, the WTA asserts that “we are losing elephants faster than they can reproduce.” This is where whistleblowers and whistleblower laws come into play.

Whistleblower attorney Kelsey Condon highlights various U.S. reward laws that are “uniquely designed to combat such crimes in a recent National Law Review article. These laws provide incentives for whistleblowers with high-quality information to assist law enforcement in stopping criminal networks.” The Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act incentivize blowing the whistle on wildlife crimes, while other U.S. reward laws like the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act(FCPA) can also be used to fight wildlife crime. Condon writes that additionally, the Bank Secrecy Act, the USA PATRIOT Act, the FCPA, and the Securities Exchange Act “all cover the financial industry and penalize money laundering activities,” which are often tied to wildlife trafficking and crimes.

Scott Hajost, Senior Wildlife Policy Advisor for the National Whistleblower Center, thinks that rewarding and protecting wildlife whistleblowers is essential to fighting wildlife crimes. In a 2018 article, he details how whistleblower successes in corporate and financial fraud cases could be replicated in the wildlife trafficking business. “If we make reporting crime more lucrative than participating in it, there will be a sea change in how the wildlife crime industry operates,” wrote Hajost.

Strides are already being made to protect wildlife whistleblowers and promote whistleblowing to fight wildlife crime. The National Whistleblower Center’s Global Wildlife Whistleblower Program, a winner of the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge, works to educate about wildlife whistleblowing and provide aid to individuals who want to blow the whistle on wildlife crime and illegal trafficking.

This year, on World Elephant Day, let’s work towards a prosperous future for magnificent African and Asian elephants by protecting and rewarding wildlife whistleblowers.

Further reading:

Citizens and activists can help stop environmental crime, but they need to know which laws apply, how to collect evidence and when to get a lawyer.

Different approaches to the role of citizens in collecting and reporting evidence of environmental crime were discussed last week by a three panelists at the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, DC.

In many cases, there is no meaningful law enforcement to stop environmental crimes. That’s where citizens can come in.

By understanding how to collect evidence and navigate whistleblower programs, anyone can help enforce environmental laws. Anyone includes, NGO staff, those impacted by crime or insiders, such as cruise ship crews.

John Kostyack, director of National Whistleblower Center, talked about a range of existing federal laws with provisions that reward citizens who come forward with credible information about environmental crime.  Shaun Goho of the environmental law clinic at Harvard Law School talked about how the courts are likely to interpret evidence and expert testimony. Stevie Lewis of the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science said the EPA has been slow to act on the recommendations in a 2016 report on promoting citizen science. But, her group hasn’t.

Kostyack started his talk with a slide of a small, endangered porpoise known as the vaquita, according to a video of the event.

“It’s really a fitting symbol of what we’re up against,” he said. “The forces that are driving this beautiful animal to extinction in its home in the Gulf of California are the same forces that are driving much of the environmental devastation around the world and those are the forces of crime.”

Continue Reading Citizens impacted by environmental crime can help stop it. But, they need support and protection.

Photo Credit: Leslie Rose Photography
Photo Credit: Leslie Rose Photography

Whistleblowers have been effective at combatting financial and corporate crime, but are sorely lacking in the sphere of wildlife crime. If empowered to combat it, whistleblowers could be fundamental to dismantling the wildlife crime economy, writes Scott Hajost, Managing Director, Global Wildlife Whistleblower Program, National Whistleblower Center. Continue Reading Empowering whistleblowers is the key to combating wildlife crime

Law-Building-DCThis Tuesday, the United States Institute of Peace hosted a bipartisan congressional dialogue featuring Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations committee. The dialogue focused on addressing the key steps and challenges in tackling illegal wildlife poaching and trafficking. The dialogue also highlighted that this illicit trade is a source of terrorist funding.

Continue Reading Lawmakers Discuss Linkage Between Wildlife Trafficking and Terrorism

Whistleblower Law Expert Responds to GAO Report on Combating Wildlife Trafficking

Washington, D.C. May 8, 2018. In a report released today, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued wide-ranging recommendations to increase the effectiveness of paying informants and whistleblowers to report illegal wildlife trafficking. Continue Reading U.S. Government Accountability Office Urges Federal Government to Take Stronger Action to Promote Wildlife Crime Whistleblowers

The National Whistleblower Center (NWC) is proud to announce that Scott Hajost has been named the new managing director of the NWC’s Global Wildlife Whistleblower Program. Mr. Hajost will work to forge new partnerships, both in the U.S. and globally, to refer and protect whistleblowers in the areas of wildlife crime, including illegal logging and fishing.

Continue Reading National Whistleblower Center Names Scott Hajost Managing Director of Global Wildlife Whistleblower Program

In late 2017, federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York (considered one of America’s most important judicial districts) settled a case against Notations, a garment wholesaler. In a case originally brought by a qui tam relator (a.k.a. a whistleblower), Notations admitted to ignoring repeated warning signs that its Chinese importer was lying about the value of its imported goods to avoid paying customs fees. As a result, Notations has agreed to pay $1 million in fees.

Continue Reading Customs Fraud, Wildlife Crime, and the Value of Whistleblowers