Syrians are migrating en masse to Europe to flee their war-torn homeland. They would like to find a place where they have a chance at life and happiness. In their effort to get to Europe, many are selling everything they own to pay for a passage by water to Greece. Sometimes that ticket is for a boat to Greece, but not necessarily to get a chance at life and happiness.
One hears stories of rape and prostitution. People are enslaved forcefully. Others are coerced into a system that has them accruing debt with high interest rates, which they pay off through labor.
These stories have money behind it all. The transactions are, of course, illegal. The storage of money is also illegal. For banks of all sizes and locations, trying to track down funds originating from these criminal activities is difficult. And this problem isn’t going away. As a matter of fact, Freedom House, an NGO that studies human rights issues, recently released a report stating that a third of the human population lives at risk of war, violence, and terror on a daily basis. That is 2.43 Billion people. Banks and Money Service Businesses facilitate and secure the transactions that make human trafficking profitable.
Here’s where technology can be of great help. On a case-basis, data analysis tools play an important role in discovering players in such industries. On a systemic-basis, a central ledger might be a solution. This is most commonly called BlockChain. The idea is to have a single place where all accounts must balance and all transactions are verified by the community as a whole. Transactions can still be anonymous, but the facilitating financial institution has a place to check unique funds – unique because each unit of currency will have an identification code. You know those numbers and letters stamped on the US Dollar Bill? Yes, that kind of uniqueness. Currently, we treat a single dollar no different from any other dollar. But with a record of that unique identification available, we can start to root-out human trafficking networks.
Marcus Maltempo is a Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist and a Certified Fraud Examiner with more than a decade of experience helping banks, law firms and clients manage investigations and regulatory responses.