LONDON, March 15 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Banks could
revolutionise the fight against human trafficking and modern
slavery by reporting suspicious transactions and other financial
activity that ring alarm bells, according to a report on
Financial institutions hold data on traffickers and their
victims that could play a vital role in combating trafficking -
as long as they also collaborate with groups working to stop the
trade and supporting survivors, the report said.
The report by Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) was
launched at an event in London opened by Britain's interior
minister, Amber Rudd, who announced 6 million pounds ($7.4
million) of aid money to tackle modern slavery around the world.
"This barbaric crime affects every country and this funding
will protect those who risk being trafficked to our shores or
who suffer intolerable cruelty to make the products we buy,"
Nearly 46 million people globally are living as slaves,
forced to work in factories, mines and farms, sold for sex,
trapped in debt bondage or born into servitude, according to the
2016 Global Slavery Index by rights group Walk Free Foundation.
UK government figures estimate between 10,000 and 13,000
people are living as slaves in Britain.
Speakers from law enforcement and banking said the world had
moral, legal and commercial motivations to tackle trafficking.
They outlined the crucial role that financial institutions
could play, as long as there was cross-sector collaboration,
with anti-trafficking charities groups working with police.
Nigel Kirby of the UK's National Crime Agency explained
police had been stuck on an investigation into a suspected sex
trafficking website, until one bank provided a "golden nugget"
"They now know exactly who is behind that, how they're
running and how it's being financed. I find that really
impressive," said Kirby.
The panel discussed how the financial sector can shine a
light on trafficking networks by flagging suspicious
transactions, analysing large amounts of data in new ways and
undertaking database investigations.
Banks can help police identify and prosecute trafficking
cases by providing proof of payments and financial patterns.
And on the ground, banks have thousands of staff members who
can be trained to look out for possible cases of trafficking.
Rob Wainwright, director of Europe's police agency, Europol,
said after a slow start, global banks were engaged in fighting
trafficking in ways never seen before.
($1 = 0.8145 pounds)
(Reporting by Ed Upright, Editing by Ros Russell.; Please
credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson
Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights,
trafficking and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)