The Hottest Commodity on the Black Market: People

Welcome to RDC Insider Insights. This is the first in a series of posts on a multitude of modern-day financial crimes. We’ve analyzed our global datasets to understand how certain types of crimes and risks are changing over time, both globally and in regional splits, to uncover trends and provide insights. By sharing these trends in financial crimes and emerging areas of risk, we hope to raise awareness, encourage partnerships, and boost the powers of collaboration among national and international authorities to crack down on trafficking culprits.

Human Trafficking in the Macroeconomy

Human trafficking is a modern-day, worldwide, profit-motivated problem that enslaves people from all walks of life. RDC’s global coverage shows a rising trend in modern slavery; from human smuggling to forced labor to child brides to migrant workers, this industry generates over $150 billion in illicit funds each year. Advances in global telecommunications, transportation and, more recently, cryptocurrencies and wire fund transfers have only facilitated the ease and increase of human-trafficking activities. Financial institutions are at the forefront of attempts to legitimize these ill-gotten gains and have an obligation to flag suspicious transfers, freeze accounts associated with human trafficking, and collaborate with law enforcement to help fight this global crime.

Human trafficking culprits are varied, ranging from cost-cutting multinational corporations profiting from cheap child labor to organizers of forced prostitution rings or illicit drug trafficking networks. Traffickers take advantage of vulnerable populations seeking a better life in the US, UK, and Australia. Migrants often take riskier routes attempting to elude capture; thus, many do not arrive at their desired destination. Thirty-nine Vietnamese migrants were found dead in a lorry in Essex, England just this month. The increase in crackdowns on lorries across Europe has proven this issue to be more prevalent than previously imagined (Figure 1). Part of a larger human-trafficking circuit of migrants traveling from Asia to the UK, the “CO2 Route” is known for the use of shipping containers or merchandise trailers to transport people. The low ventilation can prove fatal, causing travelers to suffocate.1

The Essex-Lorry case reveals how, through elaborate criminal networks, traffickers take advantage of the lack of information-sharing among countries to exploit individuals from across the globe. Noted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) as a major challenge to identifying human trafficking offenses, RDC has positioned itself to overcome this barrier of international cooperation by disseminating modern slavery information on a global scale. Our mission to expand media coverage has led to a 205% increase in the capture of trafficking events in the past year alone. Moreover, we ensure our customers remain vigilant to human-trafficking crimes. Our trafficking code (TRF) is turned on for our clients free of charge.

1Figure 1 shows the CO2 route, a 6,000-mile journey across Asia into Europe, generally moving from Vietnam into China to pick up forged documents, through Russia, and across the Belarusian forests into Poland. Sometimes migrants end up in Ukraine by accident. Then they move across France to the Netherlands where other gangs, typically Kurdish or Albanian, bring them over to the UK. In the Essex-Lorry case, the truck was confirmed to have stopped in Varna, Bulgaria, before traveling by ferry from Zeebrugge, Belgium to Purfleet, Essex, before being discovered in nearby Grays. Both confirmed traffickers were from Northern Ireland. In a more recent case, 41 Afghani migrants were found in a lorry in Greece, having traveled through Turkey.

RDC’s Insights from World Event Monitoring

Our data, dating back to 1980, shows the top 10 countries with the most human trafficking captures (excluding the United States) are: India, Mexico, Pakistan, United Kingdom, Nigeria, China, Canada, Bangladesh, Argentina and Thailand. It does not come as a surprise to find that five of these countries—India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Thailand—were listed in the top 10 countries with the highest number of trafficking victims in the world in the 2014 Global Slavery Index (GSI).

There are many reasons why these countries are heavily linked to human trafficking. According to a 2014 UN report, India, China, Pakistan, and Bangladesh have some of the world’s largest youth populations. In fact, RDC has reported 18% of the captures in the TRF risk code describe victims as children, minors, or babies. Poverty levels are also an indicator. India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh have very low GDP per capita, according to World Bank data, and are thus more susceptible to illicit markets.

Our data shows the biggest leaps in trafficking coverage in India and Pakistan in the last year (725% and 315% respectively), calling attention to the recent advances in legislation regarding human trafficking implemented in each nation. A new law in India has begun to address the gender disparity found in human trafficking. This law stops women and girls found in illegal prostitution rings or brothels from being prosecuted, while also imposing higher penalties on the child and baby trade. Pakistan also passed a law criminalizing labor and sex trafficking, allowing local authorities to convict the first perpetrator of human trafficking in 10 years.

Analyzing and defining data trends allows RDC to diligently anticipate and predict future events. The crack-down on human trafficking by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency has allowed us to recognize a common transaction of Pakistani women sold to Chinese men through “marriage brokers” (Figure 1). While many Pakistani families intend for this to create a higher quality of life for their sisters and daughters, evidence suggests these women are sold into prostitution almost instantly once they reach their destination.

These human trafficking incidences, both criminal and legislative, show the mutual influence between enforcement and media—the more we can influence authority, the more we will know about risk events. The more we can raise awareness about risk events, the higher the demand for policy enforcement. Some of our findings reveal how an increase in awareness leads to policy changes and, as shown above, vice-versa.

Investing in a Brighter Future – Together

“Slavery globally touches not only my heart, but quite probably my table, my car, my clothing…”  – Julia Ormond, actress and anti-human trafficking advocate 

Financial institutions can’t do it alone. Combatting human trafficking requires that we build upon existing partnerships and capitalize on technological advances to stay ahead of trafficking. At RDC, we use our first-to-market AI Review to help financial institutions make data-driven decisions to identify trafficking culprits and keep illicit funds from being laundered into the legitimate financial system. When an entity with a ‘Human Trafficking’ risk event appears in our database, all of our clients are alerted to that crime. It is their responsibility to address the issue accordingly, and it is on organizations and individuals like us to keep them accountable.

Anti-human-trafficking organizations, such as our partners Liberty Shared and the Hong Kong-based Mekong Club, are sealing the gaps where policy enforcement lacks. Hong Kong was named in the latest Modern Slavery Index as a country with a weak response to trafficking despite a high GDP, implying that while they have the means to address the issue, they choose not to. The Mekong Club’s coverage in this area is crucial to addressing the issue and building awareness to activate political enforcement and media coverage. These organizations’ efforts to collect and share trafficking-specific information with us allows us to bridge grassroots efforts with financial institutions.

Cooperation between financial institutions, regulatory bodies, non-governmental organizations and positive global influencers, like Julia Ormond – in tandem with corporations that collect and streamline relevant data in innovative ways – is essential to dismantling the international human trafficking circuit. We are focused on ending modern slavery, finding human traffickers and halting the flow of illicit funds through advancing technological capabilities and enhancing stakeholder capacities via networks of information exchange. By being a proactive keystone in this chain of due diligence, we hope to create a safer, higher quality of life for the world’s most vulnerable.

Key Takeaways

  • Across RDC’s global sources, Human Trafficking events increased 205% in just the past 12 months, more than doubling the rate of increase in earlier periods
  • New anti-Human Trafficking laws in Pakistan and India have led to dramatic increases in captured events.
    • India (725%) was the country with the largest increase
    • Pakistan (310%) showed the second largest increase
  • Modern slavery affects people of all ages, races, and genders around the world, and no regions are immune. RDC has captured reported events in over 175 countries in the most recent 12 months.
    • The reported crimes are riskier in the US (#1), UK (#2), Mexico (#5), and Canada (#6), where organized gangs and trafficking networks are also involved. Further, each of these markets is a major economy, demonstrating that human trafficking follows and exploits some of the world’s most affluent economies. US GDP is #1, UK #5, Canada #10 and Mexico #15.
    • Pakistan has a population of only 216 million (2.81% of world population), a Free Press ranked at 139 out of 181 according to Reporters Without Borders, and a GDP ranked #24 in the World. However, Pakistan (#3) has developed human trafficking laws, causing an increase in enforcement
  • Most of these risk event captured in Pakistan are lower in severity (for instance migrant smuggling, forced marriage, and child brides)
  • Organizations make up 8% of RDC’s human trafficking data, while people make up 91% of the human trafficking data
    • Know your customer (KYC) and know your supplier (KYS) practices are increasingly important as organizations captured by RDC are not always aware of the crimes taking place