International case shines spotlight on HSI’s new environmental crimes unit

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents assigned to the newly created Wildlife and Environmental Crimes Unit (WECU) have been recognized for their cooperation and support of an investigation that has led to sanctions against two companies - one in Russia and one in the Central African Republic (CAR) - for their efforts in advancing Russia’s nefarious activities in the CAR.

This massive investigation, conducted jointly with enormous support from the HSI offices of International and domestic operations, enabled the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to levy the sanctions against the companies for their role that enabled the private military company ‘Wagner’ (Wagner Group) and, by extension, the activities of the Russian Federation. It’s believed they sought monetary gain from illicit natural resource extraction and provided material and financial support to the Wagner Group and other organizations associated with the enterprise of Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the former Wagner Group owner who died in August 2023 in a plane explosion in Russia.

“Russia has sought to leverage these Wagner-affiliated companies in its efforts both to secure additional revenue from abroad and to advance its interests in Africa, often at the expense of the host countries, their institutions, and their citizens,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson. “The United States remains focused on disrupting the networks that enable Russia’s illicit and destabilizing activities in Africa.”

According to a news release issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, “OFAC’s designation of Bois Rouge and Broker Expert would not have been possible without the cooperation and support of Homeland Security Investigations.” More information on this investigation can be found here.