2017 International Fellows
Keith Alder, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, New South Wales, Australia; Mike Chibita, Director of Public Prosecutions, Uganda; Luciana Frota, Drug Crimes State Prosecutor, Brazil; Leigh Gwathney, Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Trials Division, Alabama, USA; Solange Legras, Attorney General, Chief of International Division, France; Raul Solis, Prosecutor, Criminal Cases Investigation, Peru.
This group was asked to consider and discuss the different forms of illegal trade and effective methodologies available to help prosecutors tackle problems. They were asked to focus on three particular areas of illegal trade before addressing others, including human trafficking, intellectual property crimes, and drug trafficking. The group offered their recommendations and country perspectives through a lens that recognized how their stories represent the faces of illegal trade.
Before delving into our recommendations on how best to tackle the various forms of illegal trade, our group preferred to personalize our paper by demonstrating how our humanity and commonalities bring us together. Through our shared experience as humans, we recognized that our physical place of birth is irrelevant insofar as our understanding and connection to the lack of humanity in this world. In every corner of the globe, people have been and continue to be exploited for personal gain through illegal trade. We first wanted to describe our individual experiences and reticence as strangers participating in the International Fellows Program. From this starting point, we were better able to discuss the ways in which we can help to eradicate these social and criminal ills.
An Interconnected World to Fight Illegal Trade
On a balmy June evening in Washington D.C., twenty-four strangers began a journey together. It was a journey of knowing—one to know each other and to know each other’s worlds. We knew that each stranger’s world was about to become much larger. As strangers, we traveled from nearly every continent in the world so we could step onto a bus in a Washington, D.C. neighborhood and into each other’s lives. We think it is remarkable that our group was so diverse and hailed from places as unique as Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Great Britain, Israel, Kenya, Mexico, New Zealand, Pakistan, Peru, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Taiwan, Uganda, and the United States. The representation of all these different countries led us to know that the week would be magical in some sense.
We were ecstatic but nervous to participate in this program because we marveled at the idea of meeting twenty-four people who likely wanted an answer to the same question: how can I make a difference in combatting illegal trade? By the end of our eight-day journey, we inexplicably transcended our status as strangers and became so much more as friends. We became a community in eight short days. How did this happen? We started with sharing nervous chatter on a bus and quickly realized that each one of us was equally anxious about simply being accepted.
The questions start with asking if you miss your family as much as he or she does. You talk about your children. You ask what the weather is like back home. You chat about favorite foods and sports. You quickly realize that your hometowns might be thousands of miles apart and in different time zones, but what connects you is our humanity. As participants, we came from all over the world to bring together our collective legal experience to address a very challenging subject matter. We shared this knowledge and also left as friends.
We quickly learned, through sharing our collective experiences, what the human mind can devise in buying and selling people and things for profit and evil, thus enabling us to share some very practical tips. By sharing our legal and personal experiences, we came to know that every type of illegal trade humankind conceives is connected by one theme: injustice! Like an intricate web, we began to see how the trade of persons, drugs, minerals, weapons, and wildlife are all interwoven. However, at the center of that web, again, is injustice. As we grappled with that web, we understood that injustice occurs whenever any life is somehow valued less than that of another. More importantly, we knew that injustice looks the same no matter where you call home.
As we began exploring the concept of human life and the value it may have in our individual societies, we realized that we instead should be asking what value human life has in our connected world. We learned that we must develop a mentality that focuses on we as opposed to I or us versus them. This is actually the precise moment when twenty-four strangers became a community. This is when we clearly understood that the little girl who is sold in my backyard is as broken as the little girl sold in yours. The gun sold in your hometown funds the drug dealer in my hometown. The minerals mined illegally in my neighborhood are the reason men and women in your neighborhood are sold into labor servitude. Operating mentally as a community, we then focused our attention to developing strategies that we believe reflect a global approach to the transnational illegal trade epidemic that touches every backyard on every continent.
Different Forms of Illegal Trade
The group discussed the many forms of illegal trade and the effects they have globally. We also discussed common features for each form and agreed upon the various areas where we will focus our attention. We concluded that all illegal trade is driven by a personal desire for financial gain. Criminals seek low risk schemes hoping for high rewards. For our discussion, illegal trade included, but was not limited to, the following:
- Human trafficking for labor or sexual servitude
- Drug trafficking between countries
- Theft of intellectual property
- Illegal Mining
- Weapons trafficking
- Money laundering (involving the conversion of illegal property into the appearance of having been gained legally, such as cash, property shares, and other property.)
Methodologies to Combat Illegal Trade
Given time limitations, the group focused its attention on identifying some methods we believe should be adopted internationally and domestically, where necessary. This list is not exhaustive but seeks to highlight those we believe are critical to implement when attempting to combat illegal trade. Our suggested best practices include the following:
- Every arm of government must work cooperatively to develop a common, unified approach in exposing and prosecuting illegal trade. Understanding that differences in approach will always exist and uniformity is an ambitious goal, but we believe cooperative discussion will help facilitate the identification of commonalities. By identifying common ground, at a minimum, the most significant areas and essential people at all levels of government can be in communication and develop solutions.
- Adopting strong cooperative international relationships are a must. Illegal trade does not only take place within the borders of a country and this must be fully recognized by all law enforcement authorities in all countries. They must also communicate with one another, establish goodwill, and build trust if they want to make a difference.
- Strategies must be formulated that break down the “company” structure of illegal activities. By this, we are referring to the need for law enforcement to study and understand criminal networks and their hierarchical “business model” that these illegal entities/individuals create to mimic legitimate businesses.
- Initiate proactive exposure and prosecution of money laundering and asset confiscation for those involved in illegal trade. Confiscation of assets derived from the illegal trade must occur without delay, however, before the asset is further laundered. This recommendation will require significant cooperation between countries and consistent and effective legislative reform. Substantial discussion and concerted efforts to strengthen bank regulations and foreign currency exchange of currency operators also must be part of the conversation.
- Investigators and prosecutors must identify the actual owner (the one who operates as the ringleader, benefits the most, and encourages the illegal activity) of the illegal structure. Often, illegal entities create shell companies and untraceable persons who operate or own the business as a means to obfuscate investigations and escape prosecution. Efforts to identify and hold these persons accountable must be a top priority so they can be targeted and stripped of their assets.
- A global plan that limits or stops altogether the distribution of drugs across borders must be established.
Challenges with Proposed Methodologies to Combat Illegal Trade
We identified a number of possible challenges inhibiting investigations and successful prosecutions of individuals who engage in illegal trade practices. To overcome these challenges, various goals have been identified like the following.
- Political Support – The political climate often dictates the amount of attention and resources that are devoted to particular issues. Illegal trade practices are no different. Lack of political will certainly poses challenges for both investigators and prosecutors because resources and support for these cases often is controlled at senior government levels. In addition to attention and resources, legislative changes are a must and government officials must support any necessary modifications or additions to the law. Laws must be stronger and give investigators and prosecutors the authority to handle these cases comprehensively. As laws are debated, they should be drafted to have reciprocal enforcement capabilities among a wide range of countries to ensure consistency with investigations, prosecutions, and other applicable laws. The most important laws beyond general investigation and prosecution tactics and authorities include the dismantling of criminal enterprises through use of asset forfeiture and piercing (to get to the actual and main criminal actor) laws.
- Fight Corruption – Independent agencies that oversee and monitor the activities of public officials must be created. In many countries, a big hurdle exists where public officials operate with impunity because there is either no political will to investigate and thoroughly prosecute these cases, or partial individuals and agencies are controlling the investigation leading to inaction. Laws must be created, implemented, and then actually utilized to hold public officials accountable when they engage in illegal activities during the course of their duties while in office.
- Training and Resources – Training is also crucial to any successful action aimed at reducing or eradicating criminal activities. Concerning illegal trade, numerous officials must be trained to ensure adequate and ethical identification of and treatment of victims, investigations, and prosecutions. There are many people who have to be trained on how to handle illegal trade cases such as, law enforcement members, prosecutors, medical personnel, banking officials, regulators at all government levels, and wildlife officers. These same personnel also must learn how to navigate appropriate software and technology to study and understand illegal electronic transactions. Community outreach is another necessary component, where individuals understand the seriously harmful effects and impact of the illegal trade of persons, goods, and especially, animals.
- Strengthen International Cooperation – It is very important to strengthen international cooperation by sharing appropriate intelligence in a timely and effective manner. This includes sharing the information with critical partners but also creating mechanisms to protect the privacy and dissemination of the information from bad actors.
- Remaining One Step Ahead of the Criminals – Developing a mindset within the law enforcement community on the importance of striving at being one step ahead is necessary in order to disrupt illegal organizations. Any delay in taking action to investigate and dismantle the organization will result in it relocating to another location or adopting different modes of operation.
Individual International Perspectives
There are specific forms of illegal trade our group wanted to highlight that commonly affect our respective countries. Each of these perspectives arose during our group discussions, and we wanted to note how the illegal trade industry has impacted our countries in different yet very similar ways. Of course, these shared perspectives do not cover all the areas where our countries have been and continue to be impacted, but we wanted to highlight those we believe are the most common and devastating.
Australia: Being an island far from other more populous countries, it is believed that Australia has not been affected to the same degree as other regions with human trafficking. However, Australia has been directly and significantly affected by the drug trade, including having cocaine and heroin from abroad reach its shores. These drugs are often shipped to the country hidden in shipping containers. Although thousands of shipping containers are received each month, the Australian government has improved their ability to x-ray the containers in an effort to locate drugs and, at times, firearms and their parts.
Since Australia has legalized prostitution for persons over 18 years of age, it is believed that this may have limited the scope of sex trafficking cases or cases being identified as such. The police forces regularly audit brothels to ensure there are no underage children working in them. There, have been, however, a limited number of instances where children have been found to work in brothels, but this occasion is quite rare. Downloading child pornography from the internet (thereby providing a market for children to be abused) continues to be a problem in Australia. When these crimes are detected, Australian authorities work very closely with international police forces to report the matter for action to be taken in the affected countries.
France: Of particular note, France has taken action to combat human trafficking stemming from Southern regions of Eastern Europe. Each year, it is believed there are around 500,000 persons (mainly woman and children) detected to be involved in forced labor and sexual exploitation from both Central and South Eastern Europe. French authorities have developed a very specific strategy aimed at combatting human trafficking, which involves the following:
- France devoted resources to study human trafficking trends by conducting studies in Romania and Bulgaria to assist with improving information sharing and providing services to victims. Resources also have been spent to study the sexual exploitation of minors.
- France joined the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an organization that provides a forum for governments to work together and share experiences on solutions to common problems. Through OECD, a special, preventative campaign project was implemented to educate the public and reduce the effect of forced marriages in Montenegro.
- Awareness campaigns have been developed to target vulnerable populations in Romania and Belgium in partnership with non-governmental organizations.
- French prosecutors have played an important role in addressing trafficking of humans, including: 1) protecting victims through systematic and targeted prosecution of traffickers; 2) paying close attention to migrant routes to identify victims and traffickers (for prosecution); 3) managing cooperative agreements and strengthening regional cooperation related to migrant smuggling from Serbia, Herzegovina, and Macedonia; and 4) improving physical conditions for underage victims of human trafficking.
- Regional work between the Balkan states and France concerning arms trafficking has also received ample attention. From France’s perspective, there is an 8 important link where Serbia and Bosnia are disseminating arms resulting in terrorist attacks in Europe. These arms ultimately get into the hands of drug traffickers located in France. To combat this phenomenon, both French and Bosnian prosecutors have joined forces and promoted the following activities as a means to limit the severity of these issues: 1) work to share criminal intelligence and sign essential protocols between the two countries aimed at establishing joint investigative teams; 2) educate themselves by attending seminars related to arms trafficking; 3) Bosnia has committed to implementing policies to recover arms; and 4) French authorities believe and have exerted efforts to address the source of the problem in countries from which these problems are thought to stem, particularly in the Balkans.
Uganda: Human trafficking has affected Uganda, both domestically and internationally. Employment agencies recruit young Ugandans citizens for what are believed to be legitimate job opportunities in mostly Middle Eastern and Asian countries. However, upon arrival, they have become victims of human trafficking, with reports noting that many victims—primarily young girls—have experienced various levels of abuse ranging from sexual and labor exploitation to even organ removal.
Another common form of trafficking that has affected Uganda includes wildlife poaching. Routinely, elephants are killed for their ivory, rhinos for their horns, and pangolins for their scales. Animal smuggling for profit and personal sport, trophies and collections have included the exploitation of and removal from Uganda other species like parrots, snakes, primates, and other animals. Efforts to combat this phenomenon have been taken, but it is a very lucrative business and difficult issue to fight.
There also have been incidents involving the illegal trade in minerals and timber with Uganda being used as a transit country. Similarly, Uganda has increasingly been used as a transit country for narcotics of all forms.
United States: The United States faces the same plight of illegal trafficking in persons and goods that confronts every other country. The United States has an abundance of resources 9 to combat illegal trafficking, yet often times, it fails to optimally utilize its resources. In order to combat illegal trafficking in a more powerful manner, the local, state and federal governments should begin to train medical, law enforcement, judicial, child welfare, first responder, and education personnel to recognize the signs of illegal trafficking. With education, these practitioners will be better positioned to identify victims, know the proper procedures for reporting illegal activity, and understand the best protocols to render services to trafficking victims.
Brazil is a country where you can easily identify all the forms of illegal trade, especially the drug trade and human trafficking. Drug trafficking in Brazil has worsened with the rise of criminal gangs. These gangs have feuds in an effort to dominate the market in various regions of the country. Moreover, these groups have been responsible for rising violence levels in Brazil’s largest and important cities. Authorities have been unable to combat this phenomenon, causing people to live in fear akin to as if the country were in the middle of a war. Since drug trafficking provides an economically viable market, the only effective method to fight it is to focus on consumers. More resources must be devoted to drug treatment and rehabilitation so that demand can be reduced and assist those who have been trapped from lack of economic opportunity. Prevention efforts also must be extended for younger generations in an effort to stave off resistance of them ever using drugs or becoming involved with gangs and drug trafficking.
Brazil has also been burdened with challenges involving human trafficking. It is one of the world’s biggest feeder countries for sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. Social problems, mainly high unemployment statistics, make people migrate abroad in search of better opportunities. Many young women leave home hoping they will have a nice, glamorous life in Spain, Italy, or many other European countries but, instead, they fall prey to schemes, scams, and 10 traffickers and become victims in the modern day slavery trade. The Brazilian federal government has committed resources to roll out many campaigns that educate the public and reduce human trafficking, but they have not been as effective in reducing the number of victims. Additional outreach efforts must be extended with special emphasis on educating the Brazilian population throughout the country and in schools, explaining the risks of this kind of exploitation (especially involving immigration attempts to go abroad) and demonstrating how criminals take advantage of impoverished and marginalized communities.
Peru: Human trafficking for sexual and labor purposes has been well-documented. However, concerted efforts to combat this problem have not been extended because of lack of political will. Legislators have not allocated sufficient funds or passed adequate legislation– civil, administrative or criminal—aimed at prevention and more effective investigations and prosecutions. Illegal mining is a clear example where the laws are woefully inadequate to address this illegal trade, resulting in destruction of one of Peru’s most valuable commodities and increasing the amount of human trafficking to help facilitate this illegal activity.
Law enforcement and prosecution efforts to eradicate illegal mining have often been in vain and inefficient because the penal offenses for human trafficking are minimal under the current legislative scheme. The country urgently needs a coherent civil, administrative and criminal order. Because of illegal mining, people are being moved from one region to another by criminal syndicates who traffic humans for labor and sexual purposes. Illegal mining in Peru is growing, which will cause the amount of human trafficking to increase.
Therefore, it is critically important for parliament and the government to work jointly to make illegal mining and human trafficking important causes and enact stronger legislation to combat these problems. Prosecutors may also play an important role by lobbying or demanding 11 that the government and members of parliament commit to addressing these very serious problems.
Commitment to Justice
Our group thought it would be most effective to illustrate a very poignant time in history where there was recognition by one world leader that injustice affects everyone equally, no matter your physical location. We all agreed that this very pivotal moment in the United States’ civil rights movement is still relevant today and harkens back to a time to remind us that justice may be slow but is still a worthy cause to fight for and remain steadfast. In 1963, from a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote that an “[i]njustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
This quote helped remind each of us—in our respective group and the entire 2017 International Fellows class—that on June 3, 2017, twenty-four strangers stepped onto a bus for our first official program event. Eight days later, a mighty little community went back to each of their own backyards, on every continent with one thought that an “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This quote will help remind us of our very important role as prosecutors and why it is so critically important that we engage in an effective fight to protect our communities and victims who are exploited severely in the illegal trade industry. If we can care about our own backyards, this sentiment will hopefully help us to care about our equally important neighbors. As prosecutors, we have a very special role to carry out justice, and this is one that we cannot take lightly.