At that point the trade might well be covered by a standard bank letter of credit

At that point the trade might well be covered by a standard bank letter of credit

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. [Read more…]