The untouchable wildlife crime kingpin
By Julian Rademeyer
Vixay Keosavang is one of the most ruthless and prolific wildlife criminals operating in South-East Asia today. Some call him the “Pablo Escobar of animal trafficking”. Others describe him as the “Mr Big” of wildlife crime in Laos, the tiny one-party communist state bordered by Myanmar, China, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam that continues to harbour him.
The criminal syndicate he oversees, dubbed the “Xaysavang network” after the name of an import/export company he established in 2008, has been implicated in the smuggling and slaughter of thousands of animals including pangolins, primates, reptiles, snakes, rhinos, elephants, lions and tigers.
The US Government calls the Xaysavang syndicate “one of the most prolific international wildlife trafficking syndicates in operation” and, late last year, issued a US$1 million reward for information “leading to the dismantling” of the network.
But despite this – and despite overwhelming evidence of its criminal activities – the network continues to ply its deadly trade and Vixay remains utterly untouchable, protected by the Lao PDR Government and the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats he has so ably cultivated.