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The worldwide scourge of modern slavery requires a coordinated global response

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crackdown on sex trafficking

Yesterday marked UN World Day against Trafficking in Persons, an annual event during which the organisation encourages world governments, charities and private sector companies to do more to eradicate modern slavery from the face of the planet. As has been the case in the past, this year’s event involved the UN itself and numerous stakeholder organisations around the world paying lip service to their intention to crack down on the trafficking networks that profit from this evil and growing trade, without committing to any firm course of action that might bring about an end to the suffering of the millions of people affected by modern slavery in every country across the globe. The UN this year demanded that “both victims and potential victims’ rights must be upheld – especially women and children – and appealed for all states to prevent and combat the global scourge”, without proposing any tangible ways in which countries can fulfil their obligation to prevent trafficking.

While any attempt to draw attention to modern slavery is welcome, the UN’s World Day against Trafficking in Persons perfectly exemplifies the international community’s abject failure to get any sort of a grip on the problem. As is typically the case with many countries’ approach to forced labour and similar crimes, the UN’s day of action was defined by the expression of fine intentions, with a total lack of any serious plans on how to tackle the issue. Earlier this month, the biennial Global Slavery Index revealed that more than 40 million people across the globe were victims of modern slavery in 2016, and that human trafficking for the purposes of forced labour and similar crimes is far more acute in developed nations than had previously been believed. The survey showed that one in every 800 people living in the US is a victim of forced labour, meaning that America is home to more than 400,000 people living as modern slaves. In Britain, the data revealed some 136,000 people are living in modern slavery, which is the equivalent of 2.1 victims per every 1,000 people in the country. Despite this, Western governments appear either unwilling or unable to beat the traffickers.

The UK was one of the first countries to take human trafficking seriously, introducing the Modern Slavery Act back in 2015. Over the intervening years, the British government’s flagship policy has failed to deliver on its initial promise, with a 2017 report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services revealing that police forces around the country were failing to recognise cases of human trafficking and protect victims. Seemingly accepting that the Modern Slavery Act has not lived up to expectations, the UK government yesterday announced an independent review of the Bill, noting that “the criminal networks that recruit and control victims are constantly adapting and finding new ways to exploit victims”. While Donald Trump declared January National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month in the US, America has so far failed to introduce similar legalisation, despite the President’s daughter Ivanka taking a keen personal interest in the issue.

In the developing world, where the problem is considerably more acute, the picture looks even bleaker. The United Nations said this week that trafficking gangs are continuing to flourish across Africa, largely thanks to the ongoing migrant crisis. The organisation said the international community is failing to dismantle these networks due to a lack of coordination. Elsewhere, this year’s Global Slavery Index found that North Korea and Eritrea had the highest per capita rates of enslaved people on the planet in 2016, and that other countries where modern slavery was particularly widespread included the Central African Republic, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Pakistan. Despite this, UN World Day against Trafficking in Persons largely consisted of stakeholders advising members of the public to be watchful for signs that somebody they come into contact with might be a victim of modern slavery, or that products they buy could come from firms that have issues with forced labour in their supply chains.

Of course members of the public have a role to play when it comes to identifying incidents of modern slavery on the ground, but when it comes to the bigger picture, the global trafficking trade is driven by issues that can only be tackled by world governments and international institutions on a geopolitical level. Instead of arranging ineffective days of action that do little to tackle the problem, the UN and its partners should look to develop a coordinated global response to modern slavery, focusing their attention on the main drivers of the trade, such as illegal immigration, people smuggling, the migrant crisis and the failure of private sector firms to root out labour exploitation from their supply chains. While Britain’s Modern Slavery Act is not without its flaws, the establishment of a global coalition against human trafficking based on its guiding principles would stand a far better chance of moving the fight against forced labour and similar crimes forward than a day of action that amounts to little more than an exercise in virtue signalling.

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Bosnian migrant jailed for 7 years for selling firearms to Swedish neo-Nazis and terrorists

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selling firearms to Swedish neo-Nazis

A Bosnian national has been jailed for more than seven years by a US court in Washington state after being convicted of sending gun parts to neo-Nazis in Sweden.

Hany Veletanlic, a 36-year-old Bosnian citizen who had been living legally in the US, was handed a jail sentence of 85 months after he was found guilty of four offences related to the illegal possession and trafficking of firearms.

The investigation that led to the arrest and ultimate conviction of Veletanlic began when Swedish law enforcement agents seized a Glock firearm from a property in the municipality of Fagersta.

Although the gun’s serial number had been filed off, Glock was able to establish that it had been purchased by a buyer in Seattle through a code printed on one its parts.

When contacted by US police, the buyer of the weapon said he had sold it privately to Veletanlic, who then contacted investigators when he heard enquiries were being made about the gun.

During a subsequent arrest, police discovered that the Bosnian national was in possession of a stolen Ruger pistol with its serial number removed.

The Bosnian admitted he sold firearms on eBay and via direct sales, and confessed to shipping 20 different gun consignments to two different customer groups in Sweden, as well as additional weapon packages to buyers in France, Russia and Brazil.

Veletanlic falsely labelled his illicit shipments as bicycle parts and sent them to customers using fake names and return addresses.

Giving evidence during his trial, police from Sweden said some of the buyers of Veletanlic’s firearms were linked to neo-Nazi and terrorist activity.

Prosecutors said Veletanlic had repeatedly lied to law enforcement officers while they were investigating his weapons trafficking conspiracy, and that he was involved in a plot to have a witness in the case shot from behind bars.

Jailing Veletanlic, US District Judge James Robart said he had been involved in the running of an illegal “lucrative business” and taken “quite sophisticated steps” in order to cover his tracks.

US Attorney Brian Moran commented: “This defendant repeatedly lied to law enforcement, violated judges orders, and even schemed to harm a witness against him from the Federal Detention Centre.

“Even behind bars he tried to transfer guns in his control to another violent group.  Such disregard for the rule of law cannot be tolerated.”

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Customs workers in US state of Minnesota find bogus bank bills with face value of $900,000 in Chinese rail container

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bogus bank bills with face value of $900,000

US customs workers in Minnesota have discovered counterfeit bank notes with a face value of $900,000 in a container that is said to have originated from China.

Agents from US Customs & Border Protection (CBP) referred the shipment for further inspection after conducting an initial search of rail freight passing through the International Falls Port of Entry on the US/Canada border.

During a more detailed inspection of the container, border control officers found a total of 45 cartons, each of which contained fake $1 bills.

In total, the shipment of fake currency had a face value of $900,000.

After discovering the notes, CBP officers called in experts from the US Secret Service, who were able to confirm the currency was indeed fake.

Commenting on the discovery of the bogus bills, Pembina Area Port Director Jason Schmelz said in a statement: “CBP officers strive every day to protect the United States from a variety of threats.

“Those threats don’t always come in the form of terrorists or narcotics, but also in the form of counterfeit currency and other goods that have the potential to harm the economy of the United States.

“Thanks to the dedication of our officers and our partnership with the Secret Service, we were able to keep this currency from entering into circulation.”

The CBP has said preventing the flow of illicit goods and counterfeit currency into the US is one of its top priorities, not least on account of the damage such items can do to the US economy.

Last week, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published its first report on combatting counterfeit and pirated goods in America after US President Donald Trump issued a Memorandum on Combatting Trafficking in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods in April of last year.

The report found that “the flood of counterfeit and pirated goods” now being sold to US consumers through online third-party marketplaces is threatening both public health and safety as well as national security.

“The lack of effective methods for addressing counterfeit goods stifles American innovation and erodes the competitiveness of US manufacturers and workers,” the study concluded.

“Despite increased efforts of both the US government and private sector stakeholders, the trafficking of counterfeit and pirated goods continues to worsen, in both the volume and the array of products being trafficked.”

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Pair of drug traffickers handed 33 years behind bars for attempting to smuggle cocaine worth £60 million into UK

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pair of drug traffickers handed 33 years

Two men who were caught attempting to smuggle cocaine worth an estimated £60 million ($78.33 million) into the UK after shipping it from on a yacht from South America have been jailed for a total of 33 years.

Officers from the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA), which is often referred to as Britain’s equivalent of the FBI, identified that the vessel on which Scott Kilgour and Gary Swift were travelling was carrying a large cocaine shipment in August last year.

After working in close cooperation with their colleagues in Spain, NCA investigators boarded the boat off the coast of Wales and arrested Swift, 53, and Kilgour, 41, who were both from Liverpool.

After bringing the boat to shore, specialist officers conducted a forensic search of the vessel, finding 751lgs of cocaine.

Tests later proved that the drugs were 83% pure, giving the haul a wholesale value of some £24 million and a potential street value of £60 million once mixed with cutting agents.

Both men pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import cocaine at Swansea Crown Court in September of last year.

Today, Swift was handed a 19-and-a-half-year jail term, while Kilgour was sentenced to 13-and-a-half years.

The court was told that the men set off from the Canary Islands to collect the huge cocaine shipment from Suriname on the north-east coast of South America in June 2019, and were intercepted on 27 August after police put their vessel under surveillance.

When law enforcement officers boarded the boat, Swift told them: “I just want to say that I am guilty. I have got something substantial on the boat and they will find it.”

Speaking after sentencing, Jayne Lloyd, NCA Regional Head of Investigations, commented: “Today’s result shows what will happen if you try to flood our streets with millions of pounds worth of potentially deadly drugs – you will be caught and you will face the consequences.

“Drugs aren’t just damaging to the people that take them, they fuel violence and exploitation, damaging communities and leaving destruction in their wake.

“It’s thanks to the work of the NCA, Border Force officers, and the Spanish National Police, that two highly organised criminals are behind bars and that these drugs haven’t made their way onto the streets.”

Deputy Director Steve Whitton, from Border Force’s Maritime Command, said: “The work of the crew of HMC Protector, as well as our specialist deep rummage search officers, played a crucial role in this case.

“Their work was a key part of an investigation which has ultimately put two significant drug smugglers behind bars.”

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