HSI, IRS-CI Train German, Swiss Officials on Human Trafficking Investigative Techniques

Venezuelan migrant Manuela Molina (not her real name) was promised a decent job in Trinidad. Minutes after her arrival on the island she was forced into a van and taken to a secret location. Photo: IOM Port of Spain

As the United Nations prepares to commemorate World Day Against Trafficking in Persons July 30, a team of U.S. federal investigators from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) are in Frankfurt, Germany, this week to train German law enforcement counterparts on the latest investigative techniques to combat human trafficking.

U.S. Mission Germany hosted approximately 20 prosecutors and law enforcement officials from the State Criminal Police Offices of Berlin, Saxony, and Hesse; the German Federal Police; the German Federal Criminal Police, and the Financial Intelligence Unit for one-day training, July 28. Swiss non-governmental organization Trafficked Victim Unit also attended. Participants learned how to recognize indicators and trace financial transactions linked to human trafficking.

“Combating human trafficking is a top priority for the Department of Homeland Security and HSI plays an integral role in working with law enforcement partners around the globe to deter, disrupt, and dismantle criminal network engaged in this heinous crime,” said David Magdycz, acting assistant director of HSI International Operations. “International cooperation is critical, now more than ever. HSI works with partners globally to share best practices and overcome barriers in the transnational fight against human traffickers and the networks that facilitate and profit from modern-day slavery. We will continue to leverage our broad authorities, amplified by international and domestic partnerships such as those with IRS-CI, to identify and protect victims of trafficking, while bringing perpetrators to justice.”

After spending three years at Tier 2, the U.S. Department of State’s 2022 Trafficking in Persons report has upgraded Germany to a Tier 1 country, noting it now complies with The Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards. In the past year, in Germany, more traffickers were prosecuted and convicted than in previous years, and law enforcement enhanced efforts to combat labor trafficking when compared to the prior year. Additionally, Germany’s Youth Protection Act became effective in May 2021, which increased preventative protections for children against cyber grooming and potential sex trafficking.

“Almost all criminal activity involves a financial component,” said Kareem Carter, acting executive director for IRS-CI Global Operations and Policy Support. “That’s why it’s important to understand how to analyze suspicious transactions and identify money laundering indicators when investigating trafficking crimes.”

Traffickers continue to exploit domestic and foreign victims in Germany, and global crises place already vulnerable persons at increased risk. The pandemic complicated detection of human trafficking activities by increasing isolation of migrant and seasonal workers, as well as sex trafficking victims. Traffickers prey on migrants and refugees upon arrival. In 2022, Ukrainian refugees, predominantly women and children, fleeing Russia’s war on Ukraine have become vulnerable to trafficking.

To counter these and other trends the Trafficking in Persons report makes annual recommendations to further each government’s anti-trafficking efforts. The 2022 Trafficking in Persons report encourages Germany to increase its efforts to pursue financial crime investigations in tandem with human trafficking cases.

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