The trafficking and exploitation of men, women and children is a vast, complex, and highly profitable global business.
More than 40.3 million people are trapped in modern slavery worldwide (Global Slavery Index, 2017) and their exploitation generates $150 billion a year (ILO, 2014). Victims of modern slavery are exploited in illegal operations, but also in commercial settings that appear legitimate: on farms and in factories, in restaurants and hotels, in car washes and nail bars.
Financial institutions have a key role to play in the fight against this global crime. Where traffickers exploit the formal banking system to spend, transfer and launder illegal profits, banks and money service businesses have access to financial data that can be used to identify cases of exploitation and provide the evidence needed to disrupt it and prosecute those responsible.
Recognising the powerful contribution the financial sector can make to the anti-trafficking movement, the Thomson Reuters Foundation created the Banks Alliance against Trafficking – a series of regional multistakeholder working groups that support financial institutions to fight human trafficking using their data.
The model brings together experts from financial institutions, NGOs, and law enforcement agencies.
The core aim of each regional Banks Alliance working group is to map the financial footprint of human trafficking in the formal banking system and to develop red flag indicators of suspicious activity, tailored to the region, that help financial institutions to:
• Refine their automatic transaction monitoring
• Enhance their internal investigation models
• Strengthen Know Your Client / Customer Due Diligence processes to identify high risk clients
• Develop training programmes for in-house investigators and front of house staff
More broadly, the work of the Banks Alliance groups raises the profile of the vital role that financial institutions play in the fight against human trafficking, opens up constructive dialogue and builds working relationships between financial institutions and law enforcement agencies, helps financial institutions coming to the issue for the first time to start internal conversations about what they can and should be doing.