Money laundering and human trafficking

Why is anti-money laundering legislation important to combat trafficking?

NORFOLK, Va., August 14, 2012 - The U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) recently launched Project STAMP (Smuggler Trafficker and Assets, Monies, and Proceeds) to combat human trafficking, and other illegal activities through anti-money laundering regulations. The project relies on stringent regulations and collaboration with private financial sectors to combat human trafficking in the U.S.

Money laundering is a crime where perpetrators conceal the source of the profits obtained through illegal activities like human trafficking. To continue carrying out illegal activities, traffickers often commit money laundering to disguise profits acquired by exploiting women and children.

Project STAMP relies on two mechanisms to tackle trafficking and money laundering. First, federal authority strengthened the anti-money laundering regulations to combat trafficking in the U.S. The federal laws allow law enforcement to charge potential traffickers with money laundering violations. The U.S. anti-money laundering violation penalizes violator with the fines up to $500,000 and/or imprisonment up to 20 years. According to the ICE website, it can be an important factor when an U.S. attorney decides whether to prosecute a potential trafficker.

The project also encourages the partnership between a private sector and ICE to combat money laundering and human trafficking. Project STAMP includes ICE’s awareness-raising effort to educate the private sector on the subject of money laundering. Federal authorities encourages partners to contact local ICE agents to provide Cornerstone presentation, which will enable them to recognize the signs of money laundering.

Traffickers in the past have relied on various methods to commit money laundering to disguise their criminal activities. In March, 2012, a Colorado CEO was indicted for money laundering and human trafficking. According to the news, Kizzy Kalu allegedly enticed foreign workers to work at a nonexistent university, The foreign workers ended up working for nursing homes and having to surrender part of their salaries to Kalu.

Kalu also falsely claimed the amount of salary that the workers would receive by working for non-existent university. The news report indicated that Kalu operated the Global Village Hope Foundation, an international volunteer program. The organization’s website asks supporters to send donations to his residential address.

In another case in 2009, police charged Allen Brown and his accomplice for sex trafficking women and children, money laundering and other related charges. According to the police, Brown provided drugs to lure women into prostitution ring. He drugged some women to maintain control over them to force them into prostitution.

Brown made hundreds of thousands of dollars and used it to “furnish his home, purchase jewelry, buy vehicles, and purchase drugs.” He frequently used family members to act as the legitimate holder of vehicle titles, real property leases, cash and other property.

Project STAMP strengthens the fight against money laundering. But, it faces some challenges in combating trafficking. Stringent laws against money laundering will help law enforcement discover illegal transaction by traffickers. But the actual conviction of traffickers often requires the victims to testify against their traffickers. In particular, many law enforcement face cultural and language barriers to obtain victims’ testimony when dealing with international traffickers like those in massage parlor sex trafficking cases.

The methods of money laundering are becoming highly sophisticated. Earlier this year, police in China found over $1.2 billion dollar worth of underground banking systems in Hunan providence. Just by searching Google, the illicit service was available virtually to anyone who speaks Chinese or Korean language. If anyone in China can access this illicit service online, so is anyone, including a trafficker in the U.S. for that matter. Money laundering is no longer the problem of law enforcement alone. It is becoming a problem that deserves anti-trafficking activists’ attention. 


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Youngbee Dale

Youngbee Dale graduated from Regent University with Master’s degree in International Politics in 2009. While at Regent, she interned at World Bank and co-contributed to a human trafficking publication, “Setting the Captives Free” by Olivia McDonald (2007). She also worked with migrant workers and human trafficking victims in South Korea. Currently, she stays home with her three-month-old son to exercise the divine rights to mother and breastfeed him. 

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