How Accountants Can Fight Human Trafficking

How Accountants Can Fight Human Trafficking

Accountants can play an important role in deterring human trafficking and smuggling.

The United Nations estimated in 2005 that human trafficking generated approximately $32 billion a year in revenue, while the International Labor Organization estimated that 2.4 million people throughout the world are lured into forced labor. The figures are probably even higher now. Financial institutions have played a key role in detecting human trafficking, and accountants working with financial institutions can help them spot some of the telltale patterns to combat human trafficking.

“Human trafficking is often tied to a lot of other types of crime,” said Micah Willbrand, an anti-money laundering and financial crimes expert at the technology company NICE Actimize, where he is global director of product marketing of AML. “When a crime is committed, and law enforcement comes in and requests an investigation of the materials around the money that’s being passed, oftentimes financial institutions and investigators aren’t looking for a human trafficking element. We have the technology and some rules set up that can be used to identify additional follow-on types of activities.”

Victims of human trafficking and smuggling are frequently some of the most vulnerable in society.

“They’re often fairly uneducated and quite poor, and don’t understand what they’re getting into, a lot of the time because they’re tricked,” said Willbrand. “This has a tremendous social impact that criminal elements use to manipulate and guide these individuals to engage in various other types of crimes. There’s often a high correlation between trafficking and smuggling with other crimes. If you can start to identify human trafficking and smuggling rings, it will have a knock-on effect to help eliminate other crimes.”

He pointed to several indicators of human trafficking. “Often you’re looking at anomalies in cash intensive businesses which you wouldn’t expect to be cash intensive businesses,” said Willbrand. “A common one that’s given by a lot of law enforcement investigators is hotels. A hotel often should be a credit card type of business. Most of the receipts should be in credit cards. If you’re seeing the vast majority of deposits coming in cash, then there’s probably something else going on there. It could be prostitution rings. It could be bribery and corruption. There could be lots of other things. But if you’re seeing anomalies in what you would expect in the behavior of a corporation, that’s one simple indicator that you can look at.” Read more on Accounting Today.