Why detecting and disrupting illicit financial flows derived from human trafficking and migrant smuggling matters in combatting these crimes

Almaty, Republic of Kazakhstan 19 October 2018 - On 9 to 10 October 2018, UNODC held a regional seminar on International and Regional Cooperation to Disrupt Illicit Financial Flows Derived from Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and the Smuggling of Migrants (SOM) in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Organized under UNODC Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries (RPANC), in cooperation with UNODC Programme for Central Asia and the Global Action to Prevent and Address Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants ( GLO.ACT), it was the first time that TIP and SOM law enforcement focal points and financial intelligence experts from the Central Asia region (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan), Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, came together to discuss targeting illicit flows deriving from TIP and SOM.

With around 60% of TIP victims detected worldwide being foreigners in the country of detection, UNODC research findings demonstrate that this is one of the most lucrative illicit businesses worldwide today. UNODC Global Study on SOM found that least 2.5 million migrants were smuggled in 2016, generating an income of up to US$7 billion for smugglers. "UNODC is ready to extend full support in improving cooperation at regional and international level to detect and disrupt illicit financial flows derived of TIP and SOM generated by transnational criminal groups" assured Mr. Muhammad Amin from UNODC RPANC during the seminar.

The seminar looked at the role of financial regulators in the investigation process, the advantages of using joint investigation teams, as well as formal and informal cooperation channels, and the potential role of private sector. Victim-centred approaches were presented by civil society and current international standards on victim compensation and how better financial investigations can facilitate it were also discussed.

"In order to ensure that vulnerable migrants and TIP victims receive due protection and assistance, we need to close the loop through return of ill-gotten profits of those criminals who exploit them, and this means following the money from the very outset of the investigation" explained Ms. Anna Tsitsina, UNODC Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer.

Experts from Afghanistan, the UK Home Office, Western Union and UNODC Anti-Money Laundering Section presented examples of good practices in disrupting illicit financial flows through several case studies from all over the world. "There is a need for more bilateral and multilateral Memoranda of Understanding among the financial intelligence units of regional countries to better respond to these challenges" emphasized Mr. Nesar Yousafzai, Director General of the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Center of Afghanistan ( FinTRACA), who presented the Afghan experience in developing a TIP and SOM specialised typology.

Representatives from the Legal Center for Women's Initiatives Sana Sezim, spoke on the assistance and protection needs of victims with a focus on recent case law in Kazakhstan. CARICC and the Academy of Law Enforcement at the Office of the Prosecutor General of Kazakhstan highlighted their experiences in facilitating information exchange and training, including the development of a dedicated platform to support the operationalization an informal expert working group. At the end of the seminar participants worked in three groups divided into source, transit and destination countries to identify key actions to be taken in order to conduct successful investigations of a suspected TIP/SOM case.


Upon conclusion of the workshop, the delegations agreed on the need for further technical assistance support from UNODC to RPANC countries to promote regional cooperation and coordination to disrupt illicit financial flows derived from TIP and SOM, as well as to ensure that national legal frameworks are in line with relevant international standards, including United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and its TIP and SOM Protocols. Delegates were unanimous on the need for further operationalization of existing informal expert working groups under RPANC and supporting civil society actors on protection and assistance of vulnerable migrants and TIP victims, including providing networking opportunities for regional NGOs in source, transit and destination countries.

The Global Action to Prevent and Address Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants (GLO.ACT) is a four-year (2015-2019), €11 million joint initiative by the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The project is being implemented in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). GLO.ACT aims to provide assistance to governmental authorities and civil society organizations across 13 strategically selected countries: Belarus, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Kyrgyz Republic, Lao PDR, Mali, Morocco, Nepal, Niger, Pakistan, South Africa, Ukraine.  GLO.ACT works with the 13 countries to plan and implement strategic national counter-trafficking and counter smuggling efforts through a prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnerships approach. It supports the development of more effective responses to trafficking and smuggling, including providing assistance to victims of trafficking and vulnerable migrants through the strengthening of identification, referral, and direct support mechanisms.

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