Slaves rescued from human trafficking ring
Anti-slavery NGO Walk Free estimates that more than 45.8m people are trapped in modern slavery worldwide Reuters

The Thomson Reuters Foundation and European Bankers Alliance have launched a practical toolkit designed to help European banks fight human trafficking using financial data. The toolkit includes a set of red flag indicators tailored specifically to European financial institutions, together with case studies and resources that will help detect and report suspicious patterns in financial activity that may be linked to human trafficking.

The sort of thing bank branch staff have been trained to look for is when people withdraw money and immediately hand it over to someone else, for example, or when customers sign forms filled in by another person or do not know the answer to basic questions. From a more sophisticated perspective, stolen credit card numbers, bought and sold on the dark web, are often used to pay for airline tickets when people are transported that way.

The toolkit will be shared on a confidential basis with a group of banks and money service businesses which includes, Barclays, HSBC, Western Union, Standard Chartered, Deutsche Bank, Santander and UBS, as well as expert anti-trafficking NGOs and other key institutions, including financial crime compliance standard-setting bodies, national Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) and law enforcement agencies.

The toolkit responds to rising concerns about the growth of trafficking rings operating across Europe. Anti-slavery NGO Walk Free estimates that more than 45.8m people are trapped in modern slavery worldwide. The trafficking and exploitation of human beings is a vast, complex, and highly profitable global business, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO) it generates illegal profits of $150bn a year.

Thomson Reuters Foundation CEO Monique Villa said: "Modern-day slavery is a growing business. The refugee crisis and the free movement of people across European borders have created a unique opportunity for traffickers to prey on vulnerable people. It is good to see financial institutions taking the lead in the fight against this global crime. They have a crucial role to play. They have access to financial data that can lead to the traffickers and provide crucial evidence needed to prosecute those responsible for this most shameful crime."

Neil Giles, director of STOP THE TRAFFIK, said: "The trafficking of people is a business and it's about money; a lot of people globally are very wealthy because of slavery and exploitation. The fact that the financial institutions within the European Bankers Alliance are prepared to be proactive is a very positive forward step and one we are pleased to be a part of with our partners, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, and others. It is only through collaboration that we will generate the systemic disruption required to bear down on modern slavery and undermine the markets in which people are bought and sold. Acting together, we can STOP THE TRAFFIK."

Nick Lewis OBE, group head, integrated intelligence and investigations, Standard Chartered, added: "Human trafficking and modern slavery are international businesses generating billions in illicit profits each year with limited risk to the criminals perpetrating these crimes. Through greater collaboration and coordination across the financial sector, and by working with experts such as law enforcement agencies and NGOs, we can strengthen our ability to target this criminal activity.

"The Alliance plays a vital role in broadening engagement across the financial sector. The Alliance's financial indicators are far more extensive and tailored than any developed before in Europe, and we believe will have a significant effect in strengthening the ability of financial institutions to disrupt these crimes."

The European Bankers Alliance, established by Thompson Reuters Foundation in 2015, includes: Barclays, HSBC, Western Union, Standard Chartered, Deutsche Bank, Santander, UBS, ABN Amro, Commerzbank, Allied Irish Bank, and Nordea. The Alliance also includes expert anti-trafficking NGO, STOP THE TRAFFIK, Europol, the UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner, the UK National Crime Agency and pro bono lawyers from international law firm Herbert Smith Freehills LLP.