How extensive or representative they are of the loan-sharking business in Canada today, even in Montreal, the historical centre for concern, is open to considerable doubt
Laundering is commonplace. Some provinces and states permit hunting but ban the trade in parts. In that case the bladders are simply driven to a state or province that does allow legal trade and registered there in the name of people who hold bona fide hunters licenses. One trick apparently common in Quebec is to extract the bile from several small bladders and inject it into a larger one, then export it with a single permit.
Even where it is legal to hunt and export parts, there is a parallel illegal trade that is driven by the desire to avoid taxes and duties, the nuisance of filling out forms and obtaining permits, the search for top quality bladders that may be obtainable only out of season or from animals in protected areas, or, not least, by the need to witness the hunt to reduce the chances of being conned.
When the bladders are sold, there is fakery aplenty in the trade which is one reason why buyers in the Orient sometimes insist on sending their own hunters or else demanding parts be accompanied by videotapes showing the bladders being removed. For some reason bile from larger gall bladders is considered more desirable, and therefore fetches a higher price per gram, than from smaller. As a result, traffickers inject gall bladders with plastic beads and lead weights. Colour of the bile also matters, with obvious consequences. Sometimes pig bile is mixed with bear, or, alternatively, small amounts of genuine bear bile injected into pig gall bladders. It is difficult, without every expensive test, to differentiate pig and cow from bear bladders if the size is about right.
There are frequent statements from sources as varied as Interpol and anti-hunting activists that the traffic yields huge sums (that overall world illegal trade in wildlife is second only to drugs in profit is a frequent claim) and that “organized crime” is heavily involved. But the truth is much more banal. There are no gall bladder barons tracing their shipments by computer. From time to time a big operator is exposed. But for the most part the hunting is opportunistic, exchanges take place mainly through extended family networks, there is little relationship (barring a few well publicized exceptions) to other forms of contraband, and the returns are not particularly high. Nonetheless, it is wrong to minimize the ecological damage or the moral seriousness of the traffic for these reasons. And the anti-lobby has a strong point when they insist that disparity of legislation combined with confusion about whether to regulate or ban is worse than doing nothing at all. It has been proven time after time in the wildlife trade that regulated trade simply provides the perfect excuse for those involved in the black market. Blanket prohibitions should be used more frequently.
In terms of the typology, trade in bear gall bladders is another of those offences that falls into all three categories. Poaching to obtain the animal or parts is clearly predatory an act of theft, in effect, from the Crown which holds title to wildlife on public lands. Trading poached animals or their parts falls neatly into the market-based crime category. They are smuggled out by hiding in luggage or commercial cargo, by using faked paperwork, or by mixing of loads of legally and illegally exported. At the consumer end, there is a great deal of adulteration and misrepresentation, an obvious case of commercial crime. However, the market is demand-driven, and the product is either restricted or banned, by provincial, national, or international regulations, sometimes all of them. Poaching is done in the full expectation there will be a ready sale it is most commonly done to order. Hence the classification of market-based crime seems to fit best.
There may have been some truth to the stereotype once upon a time in a few places, particularly New York City. But in the last two or three ents have intervened. Most countries have loosened their interest rate regulations to permit financial institutions to charge higher rates, therefore capturing part of the loan sharks former clientele. And the remaining business seems to have been democratized. Perhaps in some cases career criminals linked to “organizations” can be still found in the business there is no reason why not. They, in turn, might still hire muscle to keep accounts up to date. But they certainly do not “control” the business, and probably never did. Along with democratization of the entrepreneurial profile has come a diversification of both sources of funds and types of customers.
Indirect profits can also be obtained if customers are coerced into criminal acts on the waterfront or in trucking firms, longshoremen and teamsters reputedly repay by assisting in the hijacking of cargoes. The same holds true when defaulting businessmen are forced to use their businesses to provide cover or support for criminal activity an operating site for other rackets, or putting mobsters on the payroll to give them an apparently legitimate source of income. All these undoubtedly have existed. (See Appendix III.)
The key to the black market is the price gap in the USA illegal CFCs sell for $25 an ounce while the cost of production in developing countries (legal under the Montreal Protocol) is about $1.00. CFCs are a colourless, odourless gas, making detection difficult. And cover for illegal imports is provided title loans in Maryland by the existence of a residual legal import quota, for essentials like inhalers, for re-export to places where their use continues to be legal under the Protocol, and for industrial feedstock inside the USA provided they are destroyed in the process.
Consumers, even when conned, are largely aware that the traffic is illegal
The gall bladders are collected by outfitters or passed on directly by hunters to middlemen who in turn sell them to travelling wholesalers, again usually for cash. Typically the transaction will occur in a bar or hotel room in some small town near the wilderness where wildlife officials are few, and local law enforcement officers are likely to be fairly sympathetic towards hunters generally. Then the wholesalers might take the galls to a big city Toronto and Vancouver are the main staging points. They are turned over directly to Chinese pharmacies for local sale (quite openly) or to brokers who arrange their transportation out of the country. If the sale is to a local pharmacy, payments might be in the form of bank instruments, albeit with their purpose disguised by invoice fraud. If bound abroad, the bladders, usually dried, are consigned singly or in small lots to couriers who are usually members of extended families. Occasionally they go in large shipments, intermingled with legal parts and ostensibly covered by the same documents hunters license number, CITES certificates, export permits, etc.