'Human trafficking poses money laundering risk'



New Delhi: Illicit money from the country is being laundered to the USA and UK by organised human trafficking syndicates, a global body setting standards for combating terror financing and money laundering has said for the first time in its latest report.

The United Kingdom's Department of Home Affairs has found that an organised gang of human traffickers operating from India, South Africa and the UK was instrumental in illegally sneaking 200 migrants into the country and the total crime money involved in the clandestine operation was about Rs 6 crore, a report by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) said.

The FATF, of which India became the 34th member last year, has placed on record instances of this undated crime in its recent report, titled, 'Money Laundering Risks Arising from Trafficking in Human Beings and Smuggling of Migrants'.

"(The first) case involves an organised criminal syndicate which operated from India, South Africa and the United Kingdom. They assisted people from India to get into the UK by smuggling them through South Africa.”

"When the people arrived in South Africa, another member of the syndicate would arrange identity documents and passports for them by supplying false information to the Department of Home Affairs.

"Upon obtaining their travel documents they would then leave for the UK. In this manner, more than 200 persons were assisted to get to the UK. The average amount charged was ZAR 40,000 per person and it would either be paid in cash or in installments into the bank account of the syndicate member in South Africa.

"Bank statements of the South African member were obtained and it reflected scores of deposits of ZAR 2,000 from various persons," the report said, while describing the operations of an organised syndicate operating in India.

"These instances in the FATF report indicate the nexus of money laundering and terror financing with human trafficking in the country," a senior Revenue intelligence officer in the national capital said.

The report states that one of the major attractions for criminals to indulge in human trafficking and smuggling of migrants is because this is seen as a relatively "low risk-high reward" crime.

"Good profits can be made with the prospect of limited penalties if caught, in large part because the prosecution is for the predicate offence and not for money laundering," the bulky report said.

Another case with Indian connections originated from the United States of America (USA), as per the FATF.

"One US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) case targeted an organisation that was involved in smuggling undocumented Indian nationals into the United States. In August, 2006, individual X solicited another person to assist him in finding a new smuggling contact. This individual introduced X to an undercover ICE-HSI special agent. The ICE-HSI special agent agreed to smuggle Indian nationals from Bangkok, Thailand to the United States for USD 12,000 per alien.

"In March, 2007, ICE-HIS special agents brought six Indian nationals into the United States on significant benefit paroles on behalf of the smuggling organisation. The aliens believed they were entering the United States on counterfeit Permanent Resident Alien Cards.

"The aliens were delivered to members of the smuggling organisation in Pennsylvania. The process was repeated in August, 2007. The smuggling organisation paid the undercover agent in money orders sent via a money remitter from Chicago and Philadelphia," the report said.

Another instance of such a financial crime was reported in Pennsylvania, where payments were made to Indian agents of a "principal leader" of a migrant smuggling organisation based in the United States for successfully pushing in Indians illegally.

PTI